Ghost Lady Fern
Illuminate the shade garden with this stunning new American hybrid! 'Ghost' is a terrifically versatile fern, outstandingly lovely in its own right as well as being the perfect foil for surrounding green- and blue-leaved plants. One of the most distinctive and original new cultivars in recent years, it is the result of fine breeding that will show to splendid advantage in your partially to fully shaded garden.
A cross between Lady Fern and Japanese Silver-Painted Fern, 'Ghost' improves on these two favorites by combining finely divided foliage, excellent upright habit, and silvery-gray fronds so luminous they appear to glow. If you have been tempted to grow a fern garden in the past but have been discouraged by the lack of color range, 'Ghost' is the accent planting you need to highlight the more subtle changes in color and texture among other ferns. Also dramatic among blue-leaved Hostas and Epidemiums, 'Ghost' is distinctive enough to stand on its own as a specimen planting or as a luminous ribbon of "light" in the shade.
Developed by Nancy Swell of Virginia, 'Ghost' is happily indifferent to soil type, and tolerates more dryness than most of its family. It grows at a moderate rate, forming an attractive clump 2 to 3 feet tall and 18 to 24 inches wide after several years. If planting multiple 'Ghosts', space them about a foot apart in partial to full shade. A wonderful groundcover or container choice, too! Zones 4-8.
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- Heat Tolerant
Even if your garden space is limited, find a place in the shade for Ferns. They ask for very little care, and repay you with ease of growth and breathtaking beauty. Most are easily divided after two or three years in your garden, increasing your garden beauty without costing you a dime. Best of all, they add texture like no other perennial — graceful and airy, despite their hardiness and willingness to grow.
In this article, I describe the very best Ferns for your garden this spring. And if you're looking for a particular variety to plant in mass or to dot among your shade landscape, I've got some fine recommendations. Remember, all of these Hardy Ferns are guaranteed to succeed in your garden, and if you divide them regularly, they'll "live forever"! Enjoy the ease and beauty of Hardy Ferns in every shady spot.
Among the most popular and widely-grown in American gardens, Hardy Ferns have come by their reputation honestly. An easier, more dependable, and lovelier Fern would be hard to imagine. The native North American species (A. felix-femina) is an absolute must for beginning gardeners, nearly growing itself. And the Asian species (A. nipponicum) contains the magnificent Painted Fern family, with some of the most beautiful frond colors in the world. The two species complement each other nicely, thriving in very moist to wet soil (waterside plantings are stunning!) and normal to alkaline soil.
Caring For Your Hardy FernsIn the wild, Ferns thrive in the dappled shade of the woodland, finding their feet in rotted leaves and other rich soil ingredients. Very few (Brilliant Fern is one exception) can tolerate dry soils, and all prefer a good pampering their first two years — lots of water and humus!
Work the soil well and deep before you plant your Fern, raising the bed at least 3 inches above the soil level. If you have heavy soil, lighten it with rotted leaves or coarse bark.
Ferns need both moisture and excellent drainage, which can be a balancing act — a good, rich mulch works wonders. If rot is a problem, make the mulch gravel or other coarse, well-draining material.
Plant your Fern very shallowly, with the crown flush with the surrounding soil.
Keep garden debris away from the base of your Ferns if you can. Rot can be a problem when the crown of the fern sits in stagnant water — though some, such as the Tatting Fern, will happily rest in an inch or so of water on the bank of a stream or pond. If you see signs of Rot, apply a fungicide and chances are your Fern will shake it off!
If possible, water the roots and not the fronds.
If your Fern is evergreen, you might want to thin the old fronds in spring as the new ones appear. At the same time, apply a new layer of mulch for the new growing year.
Every 2 or 3 years, you can dig up and divide your Fern into several new plants to share with admiring friends or to increase your own garden's beauty!
Shade Lily, Plantain Lily
Set plants 15 to 30 inches apart, depending on the ultimate size of the cultivar or species. (Set very dwarf kinds 9 to 12 inches apart.) Hostas are among the best of plants for shaded situations, but some also succeed in full sun, as they become larger and more mature. The hotter the summers, the more shade will be necessary to prevent scorching the foliage. A high shade canopy providing dappled light is ideal.
Those with blue foliage are outstanding in the shade, while the yellow/gold types will effectively light up dark areas, but prosper, too, in considerable sun. Individual cultivars of green-gold or variegated patterns vary appreciably in the amount of sun they can tolerate. While widely tolerant of soils, hostas do best in a well-drained soil that still affords ample moisture – the sunnier the location, the moister the soil should be. Incorporate generous amounts of humus in the soil, particularly those on the limy or alkaline side.
A winter mulch is extremely important the first winter, to prevent heaving of unestablished plants as a result of alternating freezes and thaws. Once established, hostas can be left undisturbed for many years, but as landscaping needs dictate, can be moved at almost any time during the year, except midsummer.
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Tips for gardening in particularly hot, dry climates:
1. Water with a drip system whenever possible – soak the bed slowly and thoroughly to a depth of 10" to 12".
2. Watering deeply every 3 to 5 days is preferable to a shallow daily watering.
3. Water in the early morning, so foliage has time to dry.
4. Add a 2- to 3-inch layer of mulch or similar material to aid in water retention and help keep the roots cool during hot weather.