South East & Wessex: Saturday July 5th 2014

Steep, Hampshire (Ashford Chace – Ashford Hangars National Nature Reserve), and West Dean Gardens, near Chichester.
Leaders: Paul Ripley Julian Reed and Peter Tindley

Those who were there:
Pat Acock, Gert-Jan van der Kolk, Paul Ripley, Andrew Leonard, Jo Basil, Ashley Basil, Julian Reed, Peter Tindley, Roger Golding

BPS last visited Steep in 1994.
This area is very ferny (what a surprise!) and it has many ferns but Hartstongues (Asplenium scolopendrium) predominate at this site. You get a wide range from those with rippling frond edges to crested, to those with simple plain leaved but more upright. In the past, Tim Brock (a national plant collection holder for Hartstongues), has found one of the elite forms called “Crispums” in these woods.
Also found were soft and hard shield ferns (Polystichum setiferum and Polystichum aculeatum), some were of amazing size. We also found a few plants that might have been Polystichum x bicknellii, the hybrid between the soft and hard shield fern.
There were also a range of male ferns (Dryopteris filix-mas and Dryopteris affinis types).
We found quite a few strangely depauperate forms of D. filix-mas.
Also Broad buckler ferns (Dryopteris dilatata) as well as Polypodies growing on the trees (Polypodium interjectum).
Gert-Jan also spotted a hard shield fern with one frond forked at the end – quite unusual.

West Dean Gardens
These gardens are being developed by Jim Buckland and Sara Wain for The Edward James Foundation.
We had a good lunch and then met up with Sara Wain who gave us a brilliant talk and showed us around.
The main fern highlights were the amazing greenhouse in the walled garden which had a wide range of maiden hair ferns variegated and crested (Adiantum). (See The Pteridologist magazine for more pictures). Also ribbon ferns (Pteris) as well as different rabbits foot ferns (Davallia), Boston Ferns (Nephrolepis), Stag Horn ferns (Platycerium), Lady ferns (Athyrium), Microsorum and a wide range of spike moss (Selaginella)
In the gardens, apart from the immaculate walled garden, we found a lady fern whose fronds were latticed in a criss-cross fashion, with a large crest on top, we had not seen another one like it, and last year it was even better than this year – great plant.
Also seen in amongst the very clever plantings, were ostrich plume fern (Matteuccia), sensitive fern (Onoclea), Wallich’s fern (Dryopteris wallichiana), Matteuccia orientalis as well as a wide rage of microproped Polystichum setiferum “Bevis”. Not forgetting the Dicksonia antarcticas.
Also some of the non ferny highlights were the vegetable garden with its beautifully trained fruit trees as cones and goblets
A fun day full of good humour and great plants .

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