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If You Need Good Fronds . . .

September 02, 2000|JULIE BAWDEN DAVIS

Ferns come in all shapes and sizes--from tree ferns that can reach several feet high to small epiphytic ferns that can be grown attached to trees or in sphagnum moss hanging baskets.

Ferns provide a look for just about any garden, said botany and biology teacher Barbara Joe Hoshizaki. "Some ferns are very coarse and stand out, while others have a softer, woodland look to them. There are cascaders and those that grow erect. The variety is really limitless."

Here is a sampling of ferns that tend to be readily available to the home gardener.

* Adiantum (maidenhair fern): There are about 250 species of these easy-to-grow ferns, which can be found worldwide. Most adiantums tend to have thin, wiry stems and finely cut fronds. One popular cultivar is 'Pacific Maid,' which grows about 1 foot tall with medium green leaves. It makes a good front-of-the-border plant.

* Cyathea cooperi (Australian tree fern): Also sold as Alsophila australis and Sphaeropteris cooperi. The most popular tree fern, this grows quickly to 10 to 15 feet. It has finely cut medium green leaves and triangular fronds.

* Microlepia strigosa (lace fern): This easy-to-grow fern makes a good foundation plant. Produces delicate, lacy fronds that are slightly yellow-green, long and triangular. Grows 2 to 3 feet high.

* Nephrolepsis (sword fern): These are popular for indoor growing, especially the Boston fern (N. exalta 'Bostoniensis'), which has graceful, arching foliage. Kimberly Queen (N. obliterata) is another popular houseplant. It has dark to medium green narrow fronds that are 3 feet in length with a stiff growth habit.

* Polystichum tsus-simense (Korean rock fern): Found throughout China, Korea and Japan, this fern has slightly shiny dark green leaves. It is a low growing plant that does a good job of accenting borders.

* Rumohra adiantiformis (leather fern): Popular in floral arrangements, the deep glossy green, finely cut fronds of this fern have a firm texture and are long-lasting. Fronds are triangular and tend to grow 2 1/2 to 3 feet in length.

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