The Plantfinder’s Guide to Garden Ferns

byMartin Richard: Timber Press

192 pages$49.95 CN

A Book review by M.J. Harvey  October 2000

The author is the owner of a fern nursery in England started in 1989.He found that the demand for ferns proved to be such that the nursery expanded much more rapidly than expected.In addition to cultivating many ornamental ferns he has imported thousands of tree-fern trunks from Australia (where fern groves are bulldozed for subdivisions).

The book consists of a short section on the history of fern cultivation including the use of ‘stumperies’.A stumpery is an area where tree stumps have been replanted upside down – roots sticking into the air.Ferns are then planted in pockets of humus between the roots where they are easier to see and tend.Stumperies were apparently invented during the Victorian age and have just been revived.

There is another short section on care and propagation but the real heart of the book is an extended encyclopaedic description of cultivated ferns and their cultivars.Believe me, this is a detail book.It is the finest reference I have come across for details of names and descriptions of the aberrations of fern frond fringing.For instance there are twelve pages on the minute differences between cultivars of Polystichum setiferum.

Accompanying the descriptions are generous numbers of excellent photographs done in the laid-flat close-up style pioneered by Phillips and Rix.This is just the sort of book I like to have on my reference bookshelf.

Negative comments?This is a Brit book.Maybe I’m too sensitive as a nouveau-Canadian but the book has the plant hardiness zone maps of Europe and USA.North of the USA is – bland (or is it ice?)It illustrates that most Brits think that Canada is either an imaginary country or a part of the USA.Another picky point, our Goldback fernPentagramma triangularis – ‘Western USA, Mexico’.Well, I suppose Vancouver Island isn’t all that important.Also the Royal fern Osmunda regalis is said to occur in Europe and Asia – no mention of eastern North America.But these are minor points.Our local Vancouver Island fern Polypodium scouleri is said to be ‘surprisingly hardy inland in central England’, (it is frost sensitive.).Also, bless the author, he has our very own local cultivar, the fringed licorice fern, Polypodium glycyrrhiza cv ‘Malahatensis’, discovered on the Malahat by Ed Lohbrunner.

Because of that the rest is forgiven.

Definition:Fern – not born in Texas