The Athyrium ferns add delightful lacy foliage to the shadows in the garden. Their foliage adds movement to the garden, swaying in the breezes. The finely divided fronds of ferns look especially nice next to large, solid leaves. These ones are all hardy, and thrive in the shade.
In this photo, the Athyrium filix-femina (lady fern) are planted with Pulmonaria ‘Majeste’, Brunnera and Hosta ‘Francee’. Their fresh green colour looks good with silver leafed plants.
Athyrium filix-femina are wonderfully robust ferns for the garden. These are the second ferns to unfurl in spring in my garden, right after the Matteuccia struthiopteris (ostrich ferns). However, the fronds of the lady fern last longer in the fall. The lady ferns continually unroll new fronds through the summer, making substantial clumps. They are very easy to divide.
My lady ferns came to the garden of their own accord, showing up as tiny ferns in the spaces between my patio stones at my last garden. I had no other ferns at the time, so they must have drifted in. I haven’t had any self spore since then, but the groups have grown, and I’ve divided them to form new plants.
Athyrium filix-femina ‘Lady in Red’ are an especially attractive version of the lady fern, with darker red stems. These contrast nicely with the lighter green foliage, and give them a little pizazz. These have been very hardy in my garden, and they are up reasonably early in the spring too.
Above is a collage of the two ferns side by side.You can see the midrib of the A. filix-femina on the left is green, while the midrib of ‘Lady in Red’ on the right is a dark red. This red colour is most pronounced on new growth.
Athyrium niponicum ‘Pictum’ (Japanese painted fern) is a very slow plant to come up in spring in my garden. It sends up a single frond quite late, and then tentatively, a few others. I moved these plant last fall to a site with a bit more morning sun, hoping that it would bulk them up. Perhaps the move set them back, so we’ll see next year.
I particularly admire the light silver fronds of Athyrium x ‘Ghost’ (ghost fern), with the contrasting red coloured midrib. These ferns form a good sized clump, and their light colour shows up well in the darker areas of shade. They make a great background to show off other plants in front of them. They are more robust then the painted ferns, but not quite as vigorous as the lady ferns.
All of these Athyrium make great garden plants for the shady areas. The variations in colour of their foliage and midribs add variety to the garden, while the lacy fronds of these ferns add a fine texture.