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Evergreen ferns

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Christmas fern (Polystichum acrostichoides) is a garden favourite
Photo: Jardin botanique de Montréal (Roméo Meloche)

Our long, harsh winters mean that we can’t enjoy most kinds of plants with large, evergreen leaves, such as rhododendrons, skimmias, pyracanthas and so on. All the more reason to deck out our gardens with ones that are interesting and attractive as soon as the snow melts and stay with us until the first snowfall. Once again, there are a number of very appealing fern species that meet these criteria.

First of all, there is marginal wood fern (Dryopteris marginalis), with its leathery ovate-lance-shaped fronds and stipes covered in rough brown scales. It gradually sinks to the ground in the fall, so that the snow covers it and protects it for the winter.

Then, there is Christmas fern (Polystichum acrostichoides). Its dark green, less-divided fronds make it a garden favourite. It is never bothered by insects, disease or slugs (like most ferns, in fact), and its 30-40 cm fronds make it a very effective backdrop for plants with airy foliage or special colours. This fern’s hardiness and ornamental interest promise it a brilliant future in our gardens, where few exotic species can outdo it.

Based on an article by Michel-André Otis in Quatre-Temps magazine, Vol. 18, No.2.

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