Polystichum braunii. Prickly Shield Fern
A highly desirable fern whose beautiful fronds are silvery when young; becoming bristly as they age. Semi evergreen, keeping its fronds all Winter if conditions aren’t too harsh. 60-90cm. Trim of old leaves to see the beuty of the emerging new fronds. Prefers moist shade, but will tolerate a fair degree of dryness. Has a very wide distribution with forms coming from America, Central Europe and Asia
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 and 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.
A large genus of mostly evergreen ferns, many suited to dry sites. Many form substantial clumps of highly decorative fronds up to 90cm across. Whilst most are evergreen it usually pays to remove all of the old fronds just as you see the new ones unfurling as the scaly nature and beautiful geometry of the new fronds is one of the joys of the Spring garden.
A little lime in the soil can be beneficial to the growth of polystichums. Avoid waterlogging.
Polystichum derives from the Greek ‘Polys’ = many and ‘stichos’ = row’, referring to the many rows of spore carrying sori.