Northern Shade Gardening

Foliage Combination of Fern and Ginger

Tuesday, July 28, 2009 Category: Garden Design

Here is a foliage combination that is one of my favourites right now in the garden. The fern is Adiantum pedatum (maidenhair fern) and the ground cover is Asarum europaeum (European ginger). I particularly enjoy leaf combinations that have a good contrast, and these two perennials play off each other with different weights, leaf shapes, plant shapes and reflective qualities. They make a terrific pair in the shade garden.

Adiantum pedatum and Asarum europaeum foliage

Adiantum pedatum and Asarum europaeum foliage

If you’re viewing on  monitor set to a lower resolution, you can view the complete photo by clicking on it.

I have a group of Adiantum pedatum ferns behind a group of Asarum europaeum plants. These perennials are under the shade of a deciduous tree. When a breeze blows, the delicate looking fronds of the maidenhair fern sway back and forth above the sturdy ginger. It’s a delightful foliage combination that I enjoy immensely.

Adiantum pedatum is such an ethereal looking fern, because the thin supporting  stems are wiry and black, so they blend in with the soil. This makes the fronds appear to be delicately floating above the ground. The fronds radiate out, with the leaflets forming a circular pattern. The leaflets are a light green colour, turning blue green when they’re older, and making a good contrast to the black stems. Each subleaflet has a scalloped side, that looks like its been carefully cut into with a number of snips. The maidenhair ferns are about 45 cm (1.5 feet) tall, so they rise above the ginger.

In contrast, The Asarum europaeum ginger has solid, thick leaves with a circular shape. The foliage is held very close to the ground, covering the soil. This European ginger  grows about 15 cm (6 inches) tall in my garden. The leaves are highly reflective  of the small amounts of light that make it under the tree canopy. The foliage of these perennials looks rich and attractive in dappled light with their shiny leaves. Although they have the low growing decorative leaves of a typical groundcover plant, they don’t have the fast spread of other groundcovers.

In the shade, I like to plant ferns next to plants with heavy, thick or solid leaves. The contrast adds some excitement to the plantings. The maidenhair fern and European ginger make an especially nice foliage combination.

There are some closeup photos of the foliage of other shade plants in this previous post.

Do you have any particular plant combinations that you are enjoying?

18 Responses to “Foliage Combination of Fern and Ginger” »

  1. Jackie (Ellie Mae's Cottage) :
    July 28, 2009 at 10:01 am

    Beautiful! I love hosta, ferns, and caladiums together. It’s one of my favorite shade combinations. I love your ginger plant. I don’t have one but it’s on my list. -Jackie

  2. Northern Shade :
    July 28, 2009 at 10:45 am

    Jackie, I like the European ginger because it has the shiniest leaves. Hostas, ferns and caladiums are a great foliage combination. Brunnera are my substitute for Caladium. :)

  3. Gail :
    July 28, 2009 at 12:50 pm

    I do love that European Ginger…It perfect with the fern gail

  4. Northern Shade :
    July 28, 2009 at 3:29 pm

    Gail, I really like the European ginger too, and I wish that they spread a little faster. The stiff, polished looking leaves with their rounded heart shapes are very appealing.

  5. Shady Gardener :
    July 28, 2009 at 9:24 pm

    Beautiful photo. Very lush, green plants! I like the combination, too. I need to run outdoors and see if anybody lives close enough to each other to take some good photos. ;-) My ginger is the wild, native variety. It does spread pretty quickly…

  6. Shady Gardener :
    July 28, 2009 at 9:24 pm

    ps How’s your weather these days??

  7. Northern Shade :
    July 28, 2009 at 10:05 pm

    Shady Gardener, I like the contrast between the delicate, ethereal look of the fern and the sturdy little ginger. You must have lots of good foliage combinations under your trees.

    We had what passes for a heat wave in Edmonton for the past week with highs of 32º C (90º F), but now it is back to comfortable temperatures.

  8. Helen :
    July 29, 2009 at 2:54 am

    Nice combination. I hadnt realised ginger grew in the shade might explore this for my shady border

  9. Joy :
    July 29, 2009 at 5:55 am

    NS that is a wonderful combination ! I had that fern for one season and I must have put it in the wrong place .. too dry .. so it left home .. I would love to try again since it is such a delicate beauty.
    I haven’t tried the “ginger” yet .. I think I need more space for that one !
    Joy

  10. Northern Shade :
    July 29, 2009 at 6:33 am

    Helen, I have my European ginger in two patches, one group under a maple, and one under a willow, both close to the trunks, and both seem to do fine. They get more sun in early spring, before the trees leaf out. For the rest of the season the get about an hour or two of direct sun, and a bit of dappled light.

    Joy, I do give my maidenhair ferns supplemental water, plus they are around a birdbath, so I always empty the birdbath on them when I clean and refill it. The ginger looks great at the front of a shady border.

  11. Anonymous :
    July 29, 2009 at 8:57 am

    I love the leaves of the european ginger, and will look to add it in a shady spot. The black stems on the fern are very interesting. Lovely combination.

  12. Northern Shade :
    July 29, 2009 at 10:50 am

    Hi # 11, the European ginger is a very attractive foliage plant. The leaves are semi-evergreen in zone 3, so they provide some early green in spring before most plants are up. Because the stems are so slender on the maidenhair fern, they dance around in the wind, and add movement to the garden.

  13. Rebecca :
    July 29, 2009 at 1:29 pm

    Just wanted to add, the “Anonymous” post above was mine. I have been looking for some European ginger, but haven’t found any this year, I’ll have to start earlier next year. Some neighbours have some close by, perhaps I could ask for a small division. :)

  14. Northern Shade :
    July 29, 2009 at 2:32 pm

    Rebecca, it starts to get harder to find some of the less common perennials at this time of year. There’s usually a better selection in the spring, but last fall I lucked out and found some of the perennials I wanted, still in stock and on sale.

  15. HelenJ :
    July 29, 2009 at 2:33 pm

    I have the Asarum together with Hosta and Dicentra Formosa. I like the combination of the different kind of foliages. But I hadn’t thought of the ferns. Thanks for the inspiration! =)
    /Helen

  16. Northern Shade :
    July 29, 2009 at 3:06 pm

    Helen J, the Asarum, Hosta and Dicentra combination sounds lovely. Just to the left and right of this group, I have some Brunnera macrophylla, which looks good with them too.

  17. Bob D :
    August 18, 2009 at 10:11 pm

    Great combination!

    I too have some European Ginger in my garden and would like to buy more. But I’ve having difficulty locating some (I’m in Toronto).

    Any suggestions?

  18. Northern Shade :
    August 18, 2009 at 10:56 pm

    Bob D, I only saw a few European ginger plants around in past years, and haven’t seen any locally, in Edmonton, this year. It’s too bad they are not more widely available, as they make a great looking groundcover. I have two patches, and I wish they spread faster.

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