Last year at this time, a seasoned gardener bemoaned, “My ferns are fried.” This year, it’s a different story. Last summer was dry. This summer, June’s rains and July’s humidity have made ferns deliriously happy.
“I have a huge patch of ferns, and they are more beautiful than they have been in any other year. I measure my rain in a rain gauge, and in a matter of three weeks we had over 6 inches of rain. The ferns love it. They’re about 4 feet high. I’m having to water them now, but they’re still in good shape,” said Kevin W. Leous, chairman of this weekend’s Ken-Ton Garden Tour.
Gardener Kathleen Pratt’s ferns are also having a very good year – along with her hostas, hydrangeas and day lilies. Ostrich ferns that are more than 3 feet tall are among her favorites.
“I like bigger, BIGGER,” said Pratt, whose garden will be featured in Saturday’s Amherst Garden Walk. (See Garden Notes at right for details on all of this weekend’s local garden tours.)
Her ferns came from a local nursery and a neighbor’s garden in recent years – and they’re going strong.
“I started with just a couple, and they went crazy. I don’t split them unless I have a place for them to go,” said Pratt, a motivational speaker in local schools who has been working on her garden about 12 years.
And she enjoys them as long as she can. “I cut them down when I absolutely have to. I usually start in October,” she said.
Another variety she nicknamed “sun ferns” because they just showed up at one point in a sunny spot near the house. They, too, are doing well this year.
Mark Yadon, of Mischler’s Florist and Greenhouses, 118 S. Forest Road, Williamsville, rattled off some popular outdoor perennial varieties. These are all “introductions,” although other ferns seen in gardens are native woodland ferns, he noted.
The four below are all for shade and like to be a little moist, Yadon added.
• Japanese painted fern: Fronds look as if they have been “painted” in shades of green, silver and burgundy.
• Autumn fern: “The new fronds that come out are an orange color and then they turn to green, hence the name 'Autumn fern,’ ” Yadon explained.
• Ostrich fern: “That’s a giant one that spreads a little bit.”
• Ghost fern: “It’s a little bit of a lighter-colored frond and a little taller and wispier than, say, Japanese painted fern.”
Potted Boston ferns also are loving this summer, making statements on porches and other spots out of direct sunlight.
With ferns, “the humidity helps out and, of course, the rain where we didn’t have to worry about it for a month,” Yadon said.
That might change. “If it stays dry, they need to be kept moist. People think 'Oh, wow. I’ve had it good.’ Their perennials are growing great. But, still, to keep them really nice, we’ll have to continue watering in July and August,” he said.
Reminder: With any fern, also read the tag regarding light, water and other growing instructions.
But ferns aren’t just thriving in gardens and in porch pots. Fern patterns – as well as leaf and other botanical motifs – are showing up again in fashion and home decor. LOFT and Banana Republic both showed fern prints on clothing. The MarthaCelebrations collection at J.C. Penney includes fern prints on giftwrap, dinner napkins and paper lanterns.
Those who visited Decorators’ Show House this spring will recall the fern-themed breakfast room decorated by Mark Taylor. The room was one of more than 50 spaces on display for several weeks at the Knox Summer Estate at Knox Farm State Park outside the Village of East Aurora.
Taylor chose to upholster the walls in a fern-covered fabric, a classic pattern by Elsie de Wolfe for Scalamandré. Living ferns from local garden centers and nurseries also were found throughout the room.
“There were baby ferns around the glass dome centerpiece on the table. I put ferns on the mantel. I didn’t use any flowers this year. I only used ferns because I wanted it to be plain and simple. Ferns are just so peaceful and natural-looking,” said Taylor, who has both potted and planted ferns at his own home.
“I have them coming out of the ground on one whole side of my yard, and they’re beautiful,” Taylor said.
And this year, definitely not fried.