Ferns are a gardener’s dream and are pretty easy to grow. We share five top design ideas and growing tips to take unfurling fronds from alive to thrive.
Focus: Clean-lined asymmetrical design takes centre stage in Modernist gardens. “A lot of attention is paid to selective planting and high-quality finishes,” says Chris Williams of Catscapes Landscapes.
Our planting palette: What better way to offset clean-lined views and vistas than with the leafy Australian tree fern (Dicksonia Antarctica)? Add a subtle touch of the tropics with lower-growing specimens like holly ferns (Cyrtomium falcatum), mixed with a selection of subtropical and temperate plants.
Taking care of the star attraction: Tree ferns thrive in acidic soil in areas where they can bask in some dappled and full sun on a daily basis. They benefit from being protected from the elements, like strong winds. Provide at least 3m breathing space to grow.
Focus: Whether woodland or tropical, gardens filled with lush layers of foliage will always be on-trend. “There are generally no hard shapes in these gardens. However, rustic hardscaping can provide interesting features,” says Williams.
Our planting palette: Add taller fern species for height and medium-sized specimens like miniature tree ferns (Blechnum gibbum) and Pteris spp. plump out the planting. Round off the look with limp-leaf ferns (Microlepia speluncae) as groundcover.
Taking care of the star attractions: Most ferns flourish in moist, cool conditions. A south-facing spot or a canopy of well-established trees will provide enough shelter for these shade-loving plants.
Focus: Patios, courtyards or verandas beg to be immersed by nature. So transform yours into a verdant affair by interweaving a foliar feast of colour, texture and pattern from top to bottom. Or opt for a more toned-down approach with on-trend furniture and lush potted ferns.
Our planting palette: Boston ferns (Nephrolepsis), low-maintenance maidenhair ferns and hen-and-chicken ferns (Asplenium bulbiferum) are must-haves.
Taking care of the star attractions: When buying ferns, make sure you’re clued up about their light requirements. According to Tracey Miller-Smith, horticulturist at Eco Balance Landscaping, “The three golden rules for a patio brimming with healthy plants is position, position, position. Why buy a lusciously green fern and place it where it only gets viciously hot afternoon sun? It will only burn and shrivel.”
On the rocks
Focus: Eco-friendly, low-maintenance rock gardens are often synonymous with succulents. Ferns, too, are great additions to rockeries. Miller-Smith advises: “The key is to create a naturalistic, layered effect with cleverly placed rocks and plants of various heights and textures.”
Our planting palette: Soften the stark lines of rocks and boulders with indigenous Knysna fern (Rumohra adiantiformis), limp-leaf ferns and a variety of large-leaf plants, depending on the look you’re going for.
Taking care of the star attractions: Whether on your patio or in your garden, all ferns need nutrient-rich, well-drained soil. Water regularly so that the roots don’t dry out.
Let’s take it indoors
Focus: Whether suspended in mid-air or on firm ground, every home needs a touch of foliage. Frothy ferns in all their guises have become firm favourites. And it’s easy to understand why.
Our planting palette: Boston ferns are fail-proof indoor plants. Keep an eye out for exciting varieties like Nephrolepsis “Tuffy”, “Fluffy Ruffles” and “Boston Gold” and fishtail fern (Nephrolepis falcata furcans).
Taking care of the star attractions: On hot days mist-spray indoor ferns to provide extra humidity.