ENTERTAINMENT

Fabulous ferns thrive in the dark and damp corners of your garden, says Monty Don


Last month I moved a few tree ferns, Dicksonia antarctica, that had suffered almost hidden in the back of my pond.

When I planted them four years ago, you could see them seductively through speckled leaves, but that has now become a thick screen that has also blocked the rain – and tree ferns like to be moist almost constantly, so this was one too Problem.

So I brought them to the other end of the garden and placed them between some other ferns in a shady, lush border.

This week, Monty Don announced the fern as an advocate of any good garden because it will thrive in dark and damp corners

They are easy to move because the trunks are actually a bundle of roots around a hard core, and although they grow roots underground, they are not as important as those above the surface.

Ask Monty

Q. Our plum tree has grown too tall to collect the fruits. When should I cut it back? – Helen O & # 39; Donnell, Cheshire

A. Most plums make small, unkempt trees, so one big one is unusual. However, if you need to cut it short, the first eight weeks of the new year are ideal – but remember to invest in a higher ladder instead.

Question: Is it too late in the year to take Sorbus cuttings? – Ady King-Turner, West Sussex

A. Cuttings can be removed at any time. In spring you can take soft cuttings from new "soft" shoots that need warmth and moisture.

Take semi-mature cuttings from midsummer to autumn. Then take hardwood cuttings in autumn and winter. Always take straight shoots without flowers or buds. Place them in a plastic bag to reduce moisture loss.

Cut all the leaves apart from the top pair of leaves and immerse them half deep in a pot with gritty compost or pure pearlite. Store in a protected place without sunlight and do not allow to dry out. Pot on when you see new growth.

A Sorbus bush (archive picture)

A Sorbus bush (archive picture)

Q. My Angel Wings plant has orange-pink spots on the underside of the leaves – what do I do? – L Hendy, Hampshire

A. Senecio & # 39; Angel Wings & # 39; likes dry conditions and what you are describing is rust caused by being too wet. Remove the bad leaves, water less and do not feed it.

I like their new home because of the club. I don't like it when tree ferns are used as standalone “architecture” or statement plants.

They look best among other ferns under an upper floor of taller trees that cast a soft shadow.

The ferns among the tree ferns are not particularly rare, but I like them very much. In fact, my admiration and enjoyment of ferns has grown steadily over the past decade, and we've added more and more, not just in the dark, damp corners, but also as important planting traits.

This is a good time to plant ferns, and the evergreens add valuable green color and texture to any conservatory.

By far the most adaptable and easiest to grow are the various Dryopteris. They grow in deep, dry shade, in light shade, in damp soil and even in full sun – a rare thing for a fern.

The male fern, D. filix-mas, grows almost everywhere with wind protection and sends out 1 m high cruisers (young leaves with sinuous, hook-shaped tips). It is one of the few plants that like to be planted hard on the walls of a building.

The fronds turn from green to brown in autumn and are cut back by a hard frost.

Its gold-green relative, D. affinis, is slightly smaller and more refined, but just as adaptable. I especially like "Cristata", which has combs on the top and on the sides of the 1 m long fronds.

These gradually brown and I remove the lot and cut back to the ankle of the plant from which the new fronds develop in spring.

Polypodia are smaller, but evergreen and very happy in the deep shade. They do not start their growth before midsummer, but compensate for this delay with an excellent winter display. It is best to cut back the leathery fronds in spring.

Asplenium scolopendrium also has evergreen foliage that is light as a feather, shiny, and beautifully curled at the edges. It needs to grow in the shade and needs moisture, so it's ideal for this dark, damp corner.

Athyria are beautifully pinnate and are ideal as undergrowth for tree ferns, as they also need moist air and some moisture in the ground if they are not to brown and shrink – although like all ferns they recover quickly if they are given enough water.

The shuttlecock fern Matteuccia struthiopteris and the royal fern Osmunda regalis both need moisture and are very happy in a bog.

But I grow them in the area where I planted the tree ferns, which is certainly not swampy, and they seem to be completely at home.

The tolerance of the Osmunda is underlined by the fact that it is contained in my neutral soil when it usually prefers acidic conditions. So give it a try unless you are working with chalk in the garden.

MONTY'S PLANT OF THE WEEK: MAHONIA X MEDIA & # 39; CHARITY & # 39;

Monty named Mahonia the plant of the week

Monty named Mahonia the plant of the week

The soft, primrose-yellow flower tips of my Mahonia x media “Charity” are just beginning to bloom and should remain in bloom for months.

They not only add the much needed color at this time of year, they also smell delicious. "Charity" is completely happy in the shade – ideal for a north-facing corner – it grows on almost any floor and is robust enough to withstand our winters.

The evergreen leaves of the shrub are very broad and prickly and become 3 m high and wide or more on your own.

However, it can be trimmed hard after flowering.

This week's job: planting tulips

It's best to plant tulips this week

It's best to plant tulips this week

Choose the largest tulip bulbs available to get a good chance of a good flower. Choose a sunny location with good drainage – or if your soil is heavy, add sand – and plant 10-20 cm deep.

If you are planting in grass and the soil is heavy, put a handful of sand in each planting hole first.

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