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Japanese painted fern (Athyrium niponicum 'Pictum')
Photo: Jardin botanique de Montréal (Jean-Pierre Bellemare)  

There are few non-native ferns to be found at local nurseries and garden centres. One exception is Japanese painted fern (Athyrium nipponicum 'Pictum'), whose variegated foliage has made it widely popular in Europe and North America. Its average size (30-40 cm) greyish-green fronds, with their burgundy stipes and rachis, are silver looking and add a brilliant flash to brighten up dark corners of the garden. Although it is slow to appear in the spring, it requires no special care. Its foliage is damaged by the first autumn frost.

The 'Linearis Polydactylum' cultivar of male fern (Dryopteris filix-mas) is a good example of the type of ferns that were popular during the Victorian era. The airier, more delicate and more divided the fronds, the more popular the fern in those days. The fronds of this cultivar are so deeply divided that it looks like only the leaves’ nerves are left! This lacy apple-green fern is as easy to grow as the type species, but it can be found only in certain specialized nurseries.

Although the artfully variegated and airy fronds of all the fern cultivars expand the range of plants on offer, it should be noted that northern maidenhair fern (Adiantum pedatum) is one of the most elegant ferns available, and all without any human intervention or genetic manipulation. It is of average size (30-45 cm high), and its slender but sturdy coal-black stipes support fan-shaped fronds.

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

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