Painted Ferns for Pop in the Shade!


I’ve always enjoyed using and observing Japanese painted ferns (Athyrium niponicum var. pictum) and some of the new hybrids that include a painted fern parent.  This blog features only a few of the many options available to the gardener.  Our Fern & Moss Garden features over 25 selections of Japanese painted ferns and painted fern hybrids.  The illumination that the silver fronds add to the garden is amazing.  Most painted ferns have a more intense burgundy hue upon emergence in April with more silvering appearing as the summer progresses.  Varieties have been selected due to a more pronounced color.  For instance, the variety ‘Silver Falls’ seen below is, what I feel, the painted fern exhibiting the best silver.  Ample soil moisture is essential for vigor and some degree of filtered light helps with coloration as well.  Younger specimens may also get more intense coloring as they age over the course of many years.  We use painted ferns in many locations throughout the gardens and the hybrids I allude to include the parentage of an Athyrium niponicum selection and a lady fern (Athyrium filix-femina).  Some noteworthy hybrids include ‘Ghost’, ‘Branford Beauty’, ‘Branford Rambler’ and ‘Ocean’s Fury’ (seen further below).  Crested (fan-shaped) foliage (pinnae and pinna) on some selections is amazing particularly with ‘Ocean’s Fury’ (hybrid) and ‘Applecourt’ (Athyrium niponicum).  While Japanese painted ferns rarely get taller than 15″, the hybrids will top out between 24″-30″ when happy.


We had a nice turnout of volunteers today.  Larry H. and Big John were on hand as staff to work on the take down and processing of the Holiday Light Show (HLS).  Alan, Vicki and Steve also helped with retrieval efforts.  Peg, Pat, Kathy and Kay all had projects in the office which included plant records, tidying, seed inventorying and some research projects.  Out in the shop we had Dr. Gredler, Dave, Jim, Bobby K., Marv,, Steve J., Dick H. and Bill O.  We also saw Maury, Chuck, Rollie, Gary, Mark S., Jim H., Maryam, Becky and many others today.

Athyrium niponicum ‘Silver Falls’ (directly above and directly below)

Athyrium niponicum ‘Burgundy Lace’ (photo above and four below)

Athyrium niponicum ‘Pewter Lace’ (directly above and directly below)

Athyrium hybrida ‘Ocean’s Fury’ (hybrid crested painted fern) – above and all below