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!!