Ferns on Streamside at Harlow Carr

Well Its been a while since my last post but its been a busy summer at RHS Harlow Carr on a re-development project along the streamside. and I’m happy to say the first plants to be planted back in are ferns!

The streamside is involved in a ongoing project to strengthen  the eroding steep banks as well as creating pools to deal with the storm water the streamside takes. In this area we have made a new pool to collect water to slow it down to decrease damage further down as well as adding new stone on our steep slopes. This has made some new exciting planting opportunities!

We were also able to tackle a few more of the Skunk Cabbage along the stream. The existing patches in the garden are very old and now we regularly dead head them, dig out any seedlings and plants where we can. However, the older the patch the deeper they go so having a digger on site has helped us tremendously to decrease the population of this invasive plant. Gardener and Digger driver Craig finessed his way around tree roots to get them out with a 8 ton digger! Though I must add and give credit to fellow Gardener Sam who dug down deep enough by hand to clear some away and create a whole new area! This led to Gardener James planting a wonderful drift of Woodwardia fimbriata, the Giant Chain Fern, which though is slow to grow here at Harlow Carr I hope it will be happy in its new damp home.

Before the digger came I went on a fern rescue mission! Digging up any naturally sown ferns I could find, and in the hot summer keeping them in crates in the stream. These are the first guys back in! The new area is going to be tough, we are now planting back into heavy clay, some of it silver clay. Its also will have some run off issues until it is planted up really well, so ferns as always, will come to the rescue until the soil and site itself begins to settle down. I’m hoping their great matt like roots will hold the soil in place and deal with the heavy moisture content. They  make a wonderful natural accompaniment  to the stone and showcase the natural species around the site.

Overall I hope ferns in this area are utilized not just for their practical characteristics of wet loving and erosion control but also for their aesthetic characteristics. Qualities like diverse textures and shapes, wonderful green lush tones and their ability to pop up and grow in the most unlikely of places that add to a wildness of a streamside!



Removal of the worst Skunk cabbage with digger
The site before we began the pool and digger work
In the middle of digging in the new stone and pool
New planting of Woodwardia where the skunk cabbage came out
One of many crates of ferns saved before the big dig!
Ferns being planted back in to shore up the soil between the stones


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4 thoughts on “Ferns on Streamside at Harlow Carr”

    1. Thank you Laurence. At the moment it’s all about soil improvement so it will be a while, maybe spring until the bulk of the planting goes in. It’s a wet site for sure. Yes I would really love to utilise British ferns there, The area is mainly viewed from a distance so having lush green fronds is what I hope to showcase. So I’m hoping to put in Dryopteris and Aspleniums. Any recommendations and inspirations would be greatly appreciated!

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