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Soggy fern hunting at the Garden House by Penny King

Posted by sheiladearing on 07 Nov 2011 at 10:05 AM

Monday 24th October and it was pouring with rain…all day!

Not put off by the persistent precipitation though, Bridget (one of this year’s students) and I endeavoured on a trip in search of ferns! We were not surprised to see ducks floating past the car at window level, quacking and in their element…

We arrived at the Garden House which is located at Buckland Monochorum, nr Tavistock in Devon. Once here, we met up with the Head Gardener, Matt Bishop.

The garden is beautiful and boasts a Walled Garden with 17th century ruins and an Acer Glade which provides fabulous autumn colour to name but a few highlights. The garden holds many National collections, one of which being the genus of fern known as the Polypodium. Matt also has an expanding collection of Asplenium (not of National status… yet) and it was these that were our main interest today.

Asplenium is also commonly known as Hart’s tongue fern and can be found naturally in shady hedgerows, walls and popping up unexpectedly in our gardens. The frond itself is entire and strap-shaped and glossy and leathery to the touch. It is an evergreen and vibrant green in colour with stripes of sori (where the spores are produced) on the underside. They look very good planted in groups of five or more in a damp shady area of the garden. 


Left to right – Bridget, Matt and Penny

Matt showed us his collection of aspleniums outside in the garden. There were many different cultivars some of which have lovely frilly edges or may be crested on the ends or even be deeply divided. One particular plant of interest was Asplenium scolopendrium ‘Undulatum Muricatum’. It has narrow fronds which are sharply wavy and have a rough surface. It was originally raised by the botanist Edward Joseph Lowe (1825-1900) of Shirenewton Hall, Chepstow who was an authority on ferns.


Frond of Asplenium scolopendrium  ‘Undulatum Muricatum’ showing sori on underside.
We will sow spores from the fronds we collected and will propagate from the stipes (stem of frond found at the base of the crown) to grow new plants. This will take a few months…

Thank you to Matt for his advice and his very friendly team for making us so welcome on such a wet day!

by Penny King


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