Ferns- A Talk By Bryan & Gill Smith (February 2018)

Bryan and Gill Smith both belong to the Pteridological Society which is the study of ferns, They first became interested in ferns some years ago on a visit to New Zealand when they saw tree ferns and became hooked.
They have subsequently shown at all the big shows such as Hampton Court and Chelsea .

What Are ferns?
They do not have flowers or seeds but have spores for reproduction. One fern, The Sensitive fern, has been around for millions of years. They characteristically emerge out of the ground by croziers or shepherds crooks. The spore or sori are founds on the reverse of the fern. Ferns have different leaf shapes and colours i.e. Harts Tongue fern, Lady fern, Hard fern, Scaly male fern Broad Buckler Fern.
Different ferns like different conditions, eg the Polystichums are winter hardy, The soft shield fern prefers acids soil whereas the Hard Shield fern likes limey soil. Polypodium will grow up trees. Ferns for growing indoors are mainly foreign ferns such as the Stagshorn and Rabbits foot, they can generally be grown anywhere and look particularly good around a seating area or beside a pond or if you have the room in a stumpery. They look good with meconopsis, primulas and Hardy Geraniums.

There is a fern suitable for every site and more details can be found on the website: www.ebps.org.uk

The most reliable tree fern in this country is Dixonia Antartica but will need winter protection of the crown. Most ferns prefer shade, protection from wind and a humus rich soil with the addition of Bone meal and a top dressing of compost in the Spring. Cut back old fronds before new shoots appear in the spring. They have very few pests and diseases, slugs and snails can attack new growth, blackfly can occur on ferns grown indoors. Vine weevil can be a problem and it is as well to check roots of plants purchased from a nursery or garden centre. The smart moth caterpillar can attack the fronds but though unsightly rarely harms the plant.

Propagation from spores lay on to sterilised compost (otherwise moss and lichens will grow) cover with plastic bag might have to wait for 6 months for fernlets to appear. Also propagated by dividing the crowns and some ferns such as the hen and chickens have bulbils which can be planted. Some can be propagated from the bases of the fronds. The Pteridological Society was founded in the Lake District in 1891 with 40 members and now has 700 members world wide.