Simply put, I’m a fern fan.
I love the way their fiddleheads appear in spring, the graceful uncurling, and the slow, almost teasing reveal of the finely cut fronds. Let’s face it: ferns are the dancers of the garden, ballet and burlesque all at once.
Not a bad for an old plant.
According to the American Fern Society, ferns have been around for a long time — a very, very long time. In fact, they’re even the stars of their own age — the Carboniferous Period, when ferns were the predominant vegetation.
It’s this lengthy history that enable ferns to play tricks with time. Enter a wooded glen with a fern carpet and it’s highly likely that you’ll see Robin Hood, a dinosaur, and a Victorian plant hunter all at the same time and quite comfortable with one another.
More than anything, it’s this igniting of the imagination that makes ferns a must for me. It’s as if in each of its fronds, in each of its spores, there’s a story that is the story of us.
I think that’s why I was determined to plant an Australian Tree Fern as an understory specimen in my zone 10 landscape. One look at it, and I’m whisked away to another place and time. The equator? Sometimes. A rain forest? Certainly. The shore of some primordial prehistoric pond? Possibly.
More importantly, though, it’s that fern dance that’s so mesmerizing. Think of the Australian Tree Fern as a fern on steroids. A furry fiddlehead rises from the center, slowly stretching out. Then, each frond is its own fiddlehead, and these also unfurl and open.
And this process continues with the help of regular misting, even watering, heat, and humidity. In time, the Australian Tree Fern will have an 8’ spread and stand 15’ tall, which means I’ll be able to stand beneath a fern, imagining myself as something small in a faraway time and place.