Most ferns are not going to add a lot of color to your garden. So why grow them, you ask? For texture, form and contrast.
I know I have a soft spot for ferns because there were everywhere in the woods and swamps I loved spending time in as a child. But my love of ferns is more than that. I rank them as one of the best companion plants for hosta in the shade garden.
Most fine floral arrangements use fern foliage for contrast and texture. The fern provides a back drop for the colorful flowers. Ferns make the colors stand out. They are the Vanna White of the floral world. They can do the same in a hosta garden. Tall ones, short ones, flat ones or vertical ones – there is a lot of variety in the hardy ferns.
The Christmas fern and the Painted ferns can be used in the foreground of the taller hostas or to the side of the shorter hostas. The Ostrich and Royal ferns can stand tall in the background or to the side of the larger hosta.
The Painted ferns have the most color to offer of any of the hardy ferns. Painted ferns are very easy to grow so long as they do not go dry in the summer. Most of the painted ferns are in the 18 to 24 inch height range. Godzilla is a new painted fern that grows to 3 feet! Almost twice the size of the other cultivars. I can’t wait to see it in the garden in 2-3 yrs.
Any of the ferns can be used for massing if you have the room. Some of my favorite for specimen planting are those with dark green leathery foliage. The Shield Fern when it matures really stands out and draws your eye. To me they make a statement.
Different ferns speak to different gardeners. Take a look at all the variety of hardy ferns. Try putting some in that constantly moist area. Spice up your garden with hardy ferns!