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Return to the Fern Fairway

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GPOD regular Cherry Ong (Cherry’s Containers Day 1 and A Clean Slate Transformed) invites us back to her garden in Richmond, British Columbia.

At the moment it’s still a bit cold here, so half of my yearbooks are (unfortunately) stored in the garage. Hope it gets warmer, but we have had a few years where the summer stayed cool and therefore disappointing for summer gardening with annuals. I keep my fingers crossed that this won’t be the case this year because I went to the other side and planted dahlias and a rose for the first time. (Wish me luck!).

I thought I’d send some spring photos of the Fern Fairway. I sent some photos of this strip in 2019 (The Fern Fairway).

The Fern Fairway is a very narrow side courtyard, about 50 feet long and 3 feet wide, with only 14 inches of gravel for planting, or more specifically, container seating. I developed this side garden out of desperation for garden areas! Given the dimensions, the area remains difficult to photograph.

I made some costly mistakes while planting in this full shade corridor – namely the setting of one of my full moon maples (Acer japonicum, zones 5-7). I placed them in the middle of the corridor for aesthetic rather than consideration of their needs, and they certainly showed their misery in 2020. Fortunately, the other recovered after moving and repotting. I have two Japanese maples that greet visitors to the strip on the north (Acer palmatum ‘Katsura’, zones 5–9) and on the southern end (Acer palmatum ‘Ariadne’).

The center of the strip now has mostly shorter plants due to the limited lighting, and I continue to study how the perennials behave to give them the best growing conditions.

A long-standing hosta identified by my social media gardening friends as Hosta ‘Fire and Ice’ (Zones 3-9) and Tatting Fern (Athyrium filix-femina ‘Frizelliae’, Zone 4-8) are among the early spring risers .

large light green fernI have grown this giant tassel fern (Polystichum polyblepharum, Zones 5-8) in a landscaping pot for many years and it seems happy.

View of a garden through Japanese maple leavesAcer palmatum ‘Ariadne’ (Zones 5-9) on the southern end of the Fern Fairway.

silver and purple fernA painted fern to fall in love with: Athyrium niponicum ‘Regal Red’ (Zones 4-9)

Silver fern grows next to an orange glass mushroomA lucky resident of Fern Fairway even before he was born: Athyrium ‘Ghost’ (Zones 3-8). The glass mushroom is the beautiful work of Andrew Holmberg, a glass artist from Portland. I finally met him for a year at Sorticulture in Everett, Washington and saw all of his amazing garden glass.

criss-cross fernThe cross fern or Athyrium filix-femina Dre’s Dagger (zones 4-8) is one of the coolest ferns ever! The shrub behind is Leucothoe fontanesiana (zones 5-8). I’ve found it to work well in this fully shaded garden, although it would definitely be nicer in a sunny location. From a color point of view, dotting the strip with ornamental grass with gold leaf helps to lighten the area and acts as a nice foil for all other leaves. I am grateful for all the classifications of my Hakonechloa macra ‘Aureola’ (zones 5-9), Carex elata ‘Bowles Golden’ (zones 5-8) and Carex oshimensis ‘Everillo’ (zones 5-9). I’ve tried incorporating Carex siderosticha ‘Banana Boat’ (zones 5-9) but it’s growing slowly.

Plant with curled leaves in a small ceramic potA newer and more exciting addition to the strip is Farfugium japonicum ‘Shishi Botan’ (Zones 7-10). It survived the winter so hopefully it will be a happy resident in the room for many years to come.

light green fern with small, delicate foliageNature knits the best sweater! I will definitely move this softshell fern (Polystichum setiferum ‘Plumosomultilobum’, zones 6–8) to a lighter spot this year.

light green ferns along a fenceFeather is fabulous! Free is fab too! This Adiantum patum (zones 3-8) is a division of the garden.

large hosta with curled leaves that grow with a fernCorrugated cardboard is a beautiful thing! This Hosta Sieboldiana ‘Big Daddy’ (zones 3-9) used to live in the back garden. It went well and suddenly went back. I dug it up and put it in a container. It appears to have recovered and is now a new resident of Fern Fairway. It’s a great foil for the Dre’s Dagger tassels.

View of a narrow, plant-lined room in front of a wooden fenceThe long, narrow space of the Fern Fairway is difficult to photograph.

A shrub with small red flower budsOne of the advantages of a sheltered side garden is the storage of marginally hardy perennials. It seems this crinodendron (Crinodendron Hookerianum, Zone 9-11) is happy where it is. I try to move them to a sunnier spot in the spring to show off their flowers and give the plant some sun.

If you’d like to see more of Cherry’s beautiful garden, check out her Instagram: @ cherry.ong

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Robert Dunfee