Extreme ferning

Three of us braved the icy weather yesterday to continue the holly fern monitoring on one area of the Fell End Clouds site. Bruce had found around 30 plants on a recce, but we clocked up 47 yesterday. The terrain is a bit challenging, with deep grikes, loose stones, and sharp rocky ridges between. There were a few tense moments but we all survived without major injury! We counted number of fronds (top score 32) and measured the length of the longest frond on each plant (top score 55 cm). We found a sheltered hollow for lunch, and mercifully it wasn’t wet or windy. We were in cloud for most of the morning, but this blew away in the afternoon, and we almost saw some sunshine! We thought that we had marked out all the plants in the morning, but found a further eight in the afternoon, including a juvenile, so a very productive and worthwhile day. There are more areas still to do in this location, so the final total will be well over 50 plants.

Water features in Churchtown Fernery, Southport

Water was an important part of the Victorian fernery, with rather more pools than there are today. Recently there have been problems with the pipework, so that the central fountain did not work very well, and the cascade above the wishing well didn’t work at all. The pool by the central cascade was leaking, so it only retained a small volume of water. Maurice Ashton, with help from Gary Mawdsley, (both volunteers at the fernery), have replaced the old leaking pipes, installed new pumps, and today mended the holes in the bottom of the pool. Looking forward to seeing the pool refilled and the central cascade working again. Gary has cleared the weeds from the cascade, so now we need suitable ferns to put in there.

The central fountain has been mostly cleared of moss and ‘baby tears’. Peter Blake donated Spanish moss, and Michael Hayward has started planting up with Adiantum raddianum that he has been growing.

More holly fern monitoring

The weather forecast for Friday was cold but dry, so six of us met in the car park south of Malham Tarn to re-visit the holly fern colony on limestone pavement nearby. Bruce was able to compare the records with a previous survey – of the 10 known plants, one had disappeared, but we discovered a new one, so there are still 10 plants at this site. Chris and Fred scoured the surrounding pavements but didn’t find any more plants. The monitoring team is now so efficient we had all the recording done by lunch time, so then we did a bit of sight-seeing, taking in the Polystichum x bicknellii growing on the pavement at the top of the cove, then walking back to the car park along the dramatic dry valley. Lots of Polypodiums here, but out of reach, and we didn’t have the famous Yorkshire extra-long snipping device!

Earby Asplenium adiantum-nigrum colony

Another small plant has appeared near to the mother plant, at the top left in this picture – so what started off as one small plant in 2010 is now a thriving colony of 7 plants at least. When I started monitoring the plant eight years ago I was concerned that a council ‘clean up’ might bring about an early demise, so I’m delighted that this colony seems to be so successful.

News from Harlow Carr

Hello from RHS Garden Harlow Carr (www.rhs.org.uk/plants) in Harrogate, North Yorkshire. My name is Aimee Beth Browning and I am a BPS member and one of the gardeners here at Harlow Carr, where I’ve worked for 8 years. I primarily work on the woodland edge and streamside, especially in areas of shade where I can explore my love for ferns! We have a Dryopteris collection here which I help care for, with an ever growing diverse collection of ferns! I am learning loads with help from the invaluable knowledge of the BPS and a lot of trial and error!

Seasonally, each year I put some ferns to bed! Being in the North of England our temperatures do drop but we also combat quite a bit of rain at times, so these are the two things I keep in mind when planting particular ferns, as well as which to cover or bring under shelter. Our Dicksonia antarctica tree ferns I cover in November. I’ve chosen a method that I hope fits into the landscape a little bit as well as utilizing some natural materials. They are a funny shape and get a bit of attention, but it is also my intention that these structures will provide a wildlife habitat over the winter months. Within the teepee-like structure the crown and trunk are covered and wrapped lightly with horticultural fleece. Everything is done lightly so as not to increase the possibility of heat and humidity in our fluctuating temperatures. Once covered, I do not cut off the amazing long fronds but utilize them by bending them and layering them over one another and tying them with twine around the trunk, thereby creating another layer to protect them from frost and excessive winter wet. Over this another layer of pervious shade fabric and then the wonderful layering of nature’s supplies! I cut back the neighbouring Dryopteris and Athyrium species that are going autumnal for the season and wrap them with twine and add sticks to hold in place. These I don’t completely uncover until after Easter when all unpredictable frosts are done here, though I gradually take some layers off as the temperatures rise making sure the crown and trunk always have some cover. I admit that each year I will always be a tad nervous that a serious winter may take them out!

Another fern I cover for winter are our Cheilanthes lanosa, the Hairy Lip fern. It comes from the South West of North America in states like Arizona and New Mexico, therefore it really dislikes the winter wet here! For 3 years now, with luck, ours have survived by covering with some perspex plastic, which I drill holes in and prop up with wire stakes, making sure the crown is covered. One also has been planted in and under the shelter of a cluster of stones.

My challenge this season I fess up to is trialling Pellaea rotundifolia outside this winter. I have also covered it with perspex. So, fingers crossed, one may survive!

Please come to visit the ferns!!