Ferns can provide a dramatic effect in any garden especially in late spring as new foliage starts to unfurl. Though native to woodlands, the fern is a hardy plant that enjoys moist shady areas while offering a striking contrast to lower ground cover in the garden.
Equally as happy in a pot in the shady area of a patio when it is kept well watered, in milder areas some varieties of fern may stay green throughout the year but cut back coloured or old leaves to make way for new growth.
For best results, use leaf mould or garden compost when planting and for a special effect, try the Dryopteris wallichiana (Wallich’s wood fern) whose leaves unfurl in late April to reveal bright green fronds with contrasting black hairs.
The Epimedium is a hardy clumping spring plant that is easy to grow and spreads slowly, making it relatively maintenance free.
Favouring partial or shady areas with well drained acidic soil, the Epimedium provides excellent ground cover and is indispensable in its ability to smother weeds in dappled areas under trees or larger plants all year round.
Growing to a height of 20-30 cm with a spread of approximately 45 cm, the beautiful array of mostly heart shaped flowers produced from late spring to early summer are further encouraged by the introduction of leaf mould or garden compost. Cut back in early spring to encourage new growth to appear for attractive foliage all year round.
Eranthis (Winter Aconite)
The Eranthis is one of the first plants of the year to flower producing a much needed vibrant display in February and March. Though it dies down during the warmer months, this plant returns year after year quickly spreading to create an early ground cover of beautiful yellow flowers.
Cultivated from either dry tubers or plants, the Eranthis prefers well drained, acidic or chalky soil in partial or full shade and is particularly at home in its native woodland or under deciduous trees and shrubs.
Though used in homeopathic medicine, the Eranthis can cause mild stomach upset if consumed while the sap can cause irritation to sensitive skin.