A change in the weather blows through our area this coming week, as nighttime temperatures finally drop down into the 40s. Cool nights signal that it is time to bring tender plants indoors and prepare for deciduous plants, like our lady ferns, to gracefully melt away from the landscape.
There is plenty to do in the coming days as I dig tubers and haul pots back indoors. Until then, we are taking time to enjoy the remaining color of beautiful fall leaves and flowers. Cool nights seem to concentrate and intensify their hues. They are even more beautiful in these last few days before they fade for the season.
At the same time, I’m focused on garden plants that will remain bright and beautiful into the winter months, ahead. There are plenty of plants that will remain beautiful through our mild winter, and others that will emerge for a short season in late winter and earliest spring. This is the time to plant them, even as I’m digging out warm season plants to store for the winter. One plant comes out and another goes back into the hole.
Anything that remains evergreen brightens up the brown/gray winter landscape. And there are several evergreen ferns I rely on to provide some mass and structure in containers and garden beds. Evergreen ferns, Italian Arum, Hellebores, Camellias, Ilex and Osmanthus are my favorites for cold hardy beauty from November through until March.
I’ve been planting evergreen ferns and the first of our spring flowering bulbs this week. I expect to pick up our main bulb order sometime next week, and then really get busy planting bulbs and Violas while getting on with fall clean-up and putting the summer garden safely to rest for the colder months coming. November seems to always prove a busy gardening time in our area. There is a lot more ‘digging in the dirt’ to accomplish before the first freeze!
Evergreen ferns offer a huge return for a relatively small investment. These hardy perennials just get better each year. While deer might eat the leaves off evergreen shrubs, and voles might snack on their roots, evergreen ferns will rarely be grazed. Hellebores bloom for a few months and are impervious to wildlife grazing since they are so poisonous, but they cost three or four times the price of a little potted fern and require more space. Most Hellebores are sold in gallon size pots. The little ferns fill the bare spots nicely.
For better or not, most of the evergreen ferns that thrive in our area are imported from Asia. None of them prove invasive. Our native evergreens, the Christmas fern and ebony spleenwort, don’t hold up as well to the weather as the Asian holly ferns and tassel fern.
After several years of photographing our ferns throughout the seasons, my favorite is the wood fern, Dryopteris Erythorsora ‘Brilliance.’ I’m trying two additional trendy Dryopteris selections this winter for the first time. Both have golden yellow emerging fronds, in contrast to the copper fronds of D. ‘Brilliance.’
I’m prepared to be dazzled by them.
Reliably Evergreen Ferns for Coastal and Central Virginia
Asplenium platyneuron, Ebony Spleenwort (native)
Cyrtomium falcatum, Japanese Holly Fern
Cyrtomium fortunei, Fortune’s Holly Fern
Dryopteris erythrosora ‘Brilliance’
Dryopteris labordei ‘Golden Mist’
Dropteris wallichiana ‘Jurassic Gold’
Polystichum acrostichoides, Christmas Fern (native)
Polystichum polyblepharum, Tassel Fern