Growing Ferns for Your House and Courtyard
Ferns for House and Courtyard
In these days of colossal land values, the modern trend is to build houses on top of one another, to get as many dwellings as possible on to as small a piece of ground as will serve. Towering blocks of flats or apartments now stand on an area where formerly one good-sized house and garden would be considered adequate.
Perhaps there is attached to such places a formal garden layout, planned as a frame to the buildings rather than a place where the residents can satisfy their desire to grow something. In such surroundings the only way for a apartment owner to exercise his longing to care for a few living plants is to keep some in pots on a balcony, roof garden, window-sill, or perhaps in a window-box. In some flats there may be a balcony on which one or two plant boxes or tubs may be utilized for growing a shrub or two.
Farther away from the city centres new building estates are planned with small houses and small gardens, the latter controlled by authority to comply with the architect’s or council’s conception of what it is permissible to grow without upsetting their plans for a uniform scheme.
These restrictions to gardening are likely to increase with the expected population explosion, but in the meantime we may as well make the best use of such facilities as are left to us in order to indulge in our hobby.
I have touched on the possibilities of ferns as house plants, mentioning their longevity and tidiness, because they retain their fronds in perfect condition for many months and do not litter the floor with dropped and faded blooms. All they require to eep them in perfect condition is to be kept moist, away from too much sun, say from mid-morning to mid-afternoon, and to have a certain amount of atmospheric humidity provided, most conveniently by standing the pots in a pebble tray.
Perhaps once a year the ferns may need repotting, or at any rate they should be knocked out and have the top inch or so ofrubbed away and replaced with new fern compost containing a little bonemeal.
When the ferns do need repotting, to keep them in good health follow the procedure as detailed in the section of ‘Ferns under Glass’. It should be possible to purchase a small quantity of suitable compost from a florist who caters for the plant-grower, or if it is too much trouble to repot one’s plants at home, such florists usually will be delighted to arrange a regular service of collecting plants for repotting and returning them prepared for another year of enjoyment in the home.
Primarily this section of the website is designed to help the grower of hardy ferns, but in the modern centrally heated dwelling there is no reason why the home gardener should not attempt some of the tender ferns. Their main requirements are the same as those of the hardy ferns, except that they must not be exposed to frost, and to counteract the dry atmosphere of heated rooms the provision of the pebble tray or some other source of humidity is even more important.
The many species of Maidenhair, the Adiantums, are ideal; the loveliness of their foliage far exceeds that of most flowering plants, and all the attention they require is cutting out the withered fronds and careful watering. Other tender ferns which present little or no difficulty are Nephrolepis, the Boston Fern, which has many finely developed varieties, the Ribbon Fern, , in its many forms — though these are hardy in some parts of the country — the Japanese Holly Fern, Cyrtomium, also hardy in parts of Britain, some of the Hare’s Foot ferns, the Davallias, and the New Zealand bulbiferum which adorns its fronds with dozens of tiny plantlets. But there are scores of tender species which would lend themselves to house decoration, and these are beyond the scope of the present volume.
Larger subjects for the larger room, or garden room / conservatory, where there is sufficient light without burning sun, are the many forms of Hard and Soft Shield Ferns, varieties ofaculeatum and P. setiferum. One of the most beautiful of all hardy ferns, at any rate among the evergreen ones, is that very rare, and consequently expensive, aculeatum gracillimum. It can be increased by division only, as it is quite sterile and therefore it requires years to build up a good stock of this truly marvellous variety. Its parent, Polystichum ac. Pulcherrimum, is very beautiful and more easily obtained. The divisilobe section of the Soft Shield Ferns are the most attractive as pot plants, such varieties as P.s. Iveryanum, P.s. Plumoso-divisilobum and P.s. Divisilobum it self make magnificent plants when tended with real care.
One rather important point: ferns which are kept near a window tend to grow towards the light, and to counteract this they should be turned round every day so that all sides of the fern get even illumination. Once a fern has developed a definite lean, its tissues will have hardened; and if the plant is then turned around, the new growth will grow towards the light, not from the base but from that part of the stem which has hardened, resulting in a kink in the fronds.