Asplenium scolopendrium ( Phyllitis scolopendrium, Scolopendrium vulgare )
Harts Tongue Fern. Adaptable British native with broad bright green fronds that make an excellent foil for other plants and provide a contrasting form in any fern collection. Grows best in semi shade. Will only take dry sites if well shaded and not until it is well established. Prefers a little lime in the soil. 45cm
The cultivation of ferns is a huge subject, way beyond the scope of the few words I will write here. However I’ll do my best to give some notes on each genus and its peculiarities of cultivation and any other information that strikes me as interesting.
The craze for growing ferns originates in the Victorian age, gaining momentum in the latter half of the 19th Century. Fuelled by an explosion of literature Victorians went forth into the countryside to study and collect native specimens by the armful. Just as there was huge interest, so a multitude of varieties and variations were spotted, collected and names. Many, many are now lost, but some still remain and can frequently be identified by the now outlawed Latinised cultivar names such as Polystichum setiferum ‘Plumosum Densum’.
Whilst most ferns enjoy misture and a soil that never dries out completely, the requirement for water is not as necessary as many might believe. In fact, the list of ferns that enjoy a boggy site is probably much smaller than a list of those that will tolerate a dry site. Athyrium, Osmunda and Matteuccia are amongst the wettest lovers. Try these pages for more information on moisture requirements.
A generalisation would be that ferns like a fertile soil with good drainage. Many grow very well on shady banks. They frequently do best in bright shade, with most ferns being able to take a reasonable amount of sun providing that they do not endure full sun during the middle of the day. Asplenium is perhaps the most notable exception, with its leaves sometimes scorching.
As regards PH, most ferns will grow quite happily in any soil that doesn’t have and extreme of either acidity or alkalinity. If you were to rank them, Dryopteris, Athyrium and Osmunda would prefer a soil on the acid side, with Polystichum and Asplenium preferring in t alkaline. This however should be taken a s a guide not a strict prescription.
So to sum up, provided you can avoid a sunny South facing bank, or dry site on sand, you are likely to have success with ferns in a wide range of positions and soils. You might like to look at the following two pages to help refine your choices.
Lovely ferns whose delicate appearance belies their extreme hardiness, coming as they do from very Northerly regions. They are tolerant of most soil types, tending possibly towards a preference for the alkaline. The main thing to avoid is windy site. They are quite short, mostly around 30cm, maybe a little taller and form dense deciduous clumps of wiry stems.
A very large Genus covering wildly different ferns from diverse habitats. In British gardens it is most represented by just a few species, predominantly the British native Asplenium scolopendrium – the Hart’s Tongue Fern. This ferns grows, but does not thrive in acid conditions, preferring some lime in the soil. It is an excellent choice for contrast in a collection of ferns and tolerates dry sites well once established. There are a wealth of varieties showing different leaf forms, from the narrow to the broad, heavily crested forms and ones with the most elaborately goffered edges. Prefers a position in shade.
Asplenium scolopendrium has been placed in Phyllitis, from which it has since moved back.
Asplenoum derives from the Greek ‘a’ = not and ‘splen’ = spleen, a reference to fancied medicinal properties
scolpendrium comes from a fancied resemblance of the sori to the feet of a centipede (scolopendra)
Asplenium scolopendrium – Hart’s Tongue, Hind’s Tongue, Buttonhole, Horse Tongue, God’s Hair, Lingua cervina