Archive for the ‘Magalia’ Category

Where the Winter Ferns Grow

Friday, January 11th, 2013

Winter can mean rain or snow, wind or stillness, sun or darkness. But in the valley and foothill portions of our region – winter also means ferns. From the first late fall rains through to the heat of summer gardens and native areas enjoy the lush green reawakening of many of the California natives ferns so apt to be dormant in summer. Photo: Goldback fern (Pentagramma triangularis) with mature spores. (more…)

May in the Garden, Fascinating Ferns and Monthly Calendar of Regional Gardening Events

Friday, May 1st, 2009

May is upon us – gardeners and school children are pulled into that final vortex of activity that leads to summer. Many flowers are blooming and the natural world in almost all zones is awake and lively. No wonder that so many traditions exist surrounding the arrival of May: Maypoles, May trees, May baskets. Bringing in the May, Crowning of the May. It all sounds as good as the month generally looks and smells and tastes – delicious, fresh, hopeful. The lilacs, azaleas, peonies and iris are out where I garden - as are the clematis and the roses – ahhh, the roses. Are you rose people happy now after months of roselessness? I know I am. Photo: A deeply fragrant Bourbon Rosa ‘Madame Isaac Pereire’ blooming beside a tall-form Euphorbia.

Now is the time for planting heat-loving summer annuals, vegetables and herbs, for those of us in the higher elevations the average last frost dates are almost here, and hardy perennials and shrubs can still be planted. But for all regions of the North State, remember the later that you plant perennials, shrubs and trees, the less established they will be by the heat of summer, the harder that heat will be on the plants, and the more you will have to water and care for them. But in gardening and in life, sometimes you have to do things even when the timing is not quite right. Most of us are probably beginning to water more regularly. Spring’s unsettled weather is a good time to run through your irrigation, checking for leaks, and making sure all your plants are getting the water they need. Deadheading and weeding are once again regular garden tasks. Photo: A spring fiddle-head unfurling from a woodland fern.

You know how you have crushes on certain plants at different times throughout the seasons? The Year – the month? Your Life. My current plant “true-love” is a fern. Any fern, really. So while my roses and clematis, my lilacs and peonies are singing me their Spring siren song – it is the form and foliage of the many ferns we can grow in the North State that I am finding fascinating right now. I recently had the privilege of a guided tour around the a fern collection of plantswoman Emilie White – a long-standing and revered member of the Chico area horticulture world. Photo: The red-tips of a young fern frond.

Emilie and her husband Ken have been gardening on their Chico city lot since 1984. City lot sized though the garden is, many distinct garden areas have been created over the years. Large trees have come and gone and lawn area has come and gone creating different planting opportunities. Emilie is an active member of the Mt. Lassen Chapter of the California Native Plant Society, the Butte Rose Society and in 2009 is a co-President of the Chico Horticulture Society. Her collection of ferns are just one of her many interesting garden plant collections. “I love the shapes of the ferns, their subtle colors and the way their often evergreen structures hold parts of the garden up when so many other plants are dormant.” Photo: The distinctive coloring of Variegated Shield Fern (Arachniodes simplicior ‘Variegata’).

Not all of Emilie’s ferns are evergreen, and of her 21 distinct varieties, many are California natives and so apt to be dormant in summer and active in winter. Almost all of Emilie’s ferns are in dappled light beneath larger trees or shrubs. She feeds her entire garden with alfalfa pellets in late winter/early spring, top-dresses with home-made or organic compost up to twice a year, and will sometimes giver her ferns a dose of fish emulsion. “Don’t be too tidy. Let the natural duff of leaves and pine needles self-mulch around your ferns. Dead head fronds as needed - like a haircut,” she says. But even a veteran gardener like Emilie will sometimes lose a fern and not know why. “And then sometimes you think you’ve lost one - and a tiny fiddle-head will appear out of what looked like dead root ball.” Emilie does not water in winter unless absolutely necessary and waters approximately two times a week in summer. Photos: The fiddle-head of a Holly Fern (Cyrtomium falcatum) and the silvery foliage of a Japanese Painted Fern (Athyrium nipponicum ‘Pictum’)

According the American Fern Society: “Ferns have been with us for more than 300 million years and in that time the diversification of their form has been phenomenal. Ferns grow in many different habitats around the world. The ferns were at their height during the Carboniferous Period (the age of ferns) as they were the dominant part of the vegetation at that time. Most of the ferns of the Carboniferous became extinct but some later evolved into our modern ferns. There are about 12,000 species in the world today.” Photo: Emilie White near one of the many ferns in her garden.

“Ferns and fern-allies are more complicated in structure than most people would suspect. Their structures, though similar in some ways to those of flowering plants are different enough to warrant a distinctive terminology.”

“The frond is the part of the fern that we see as we wander through the woods it is the “leaf” of a fern. It is divided into two main parts, the stipe (leaf stalk or petiole) and the blade (the leafy expanded portion of the frond). The blade may be undivided to finely cut, each degree of division having a specific term. Fronds vary greatly in size, from tree ferns with 12 foot fronds to the mosquito ferns with fronds only 1/16 of an inch long. Rhizomes would be comparable to “stems” in the flowering plants. Fronds arise from the rhizome. The sporangia are the reproductive structures of the ferns and fern allies. They are miniature sacks or capsules that produce the dustlike spores that are the “seeds” by which ferns are propagated. The arrangement of sporangia varies greatly in ferns. Most ferns that we would see as we walk through the forest would have their sporangia on the underside of the frond, arranged in an organized pattern usually associated with veins in the pinnule (leaf). The “seeds” of the ferns and fern allies are called Spores. Ferns drop millions, often times billions of spores during their lifetime but very few ever land in a spot suitable for growth.” Photo: Sporangia patterns on the tips of a Maidenhair Fern (Adiantum raddianum ‘Pacific Maid’). Maidenhair Ferns hold their spore packets on the front of their fronds rather than the back like most ferns.

Ferns can be propagated by growing the spores along or by rooting bulbils. Northern California has many native ferns including Western or Giant Chain fern (Woodwardia fimbriata), Western Sword Fern (Polystichum munitum), California Maidenhair Fern (Adiantum jordanii), Five-Fingered Fern (Adiantum aleuticum), Gold-back Fern (Pentagramma triangularis) and Indian’s Dream or Serpentine Fern (Aspidotis densa). Many good books are available about ferns including Native Ferns, Moss & Grasses, by William Cullina (Houghton Mifflin, 2008), and The Encyclopedia of Garden Ferns by Sue Olsen (Timber Press, 2007). The North State has many good fern viewing locations including the Serpentine outcropping in Magalia and along what’s known as Fern Bank before the golf course in Chico’s Upper Bidwell Park. Photo: Sporangia pattern on a Holly Fern (Cyrtomium falcatum).

Emilie’s garden contains many of these ferns and was featured on the Mt. Lassen Chapter of the California Native Plant Society Garden Tour in 2008. Her garden will be featured on the upcoming Chico Horticulture Society’s Members-Only garden tour on Saturday May 16th. Many garden tours and events are on the calendar in May. On Saturday May 2nd, St. John’s Episcopal Church holds their 26th Annual Garden Tour, lunch and garden boutique. For tickets on Saturday go to the St. John’s Parish Hall at 2341 Floral Avenue. On Sunday May 3rd, the Cohasset Annual Plant Sale will be held at the Cohasset Community Association Building, the McConnell Arboretum and Gardens is hosting several interesting plant talks in May including a presentation on Water-Wise Plants for Mediterranean Climates on May 23rd. Photo: The rosy fronds of a Rosy Five-Fingered Maidenhair Fern (Adiantum hispidulum).

Although this next event is not until June, I am so excited to let other plant enthusiasts know that world-renowned plantsman Dan Hinkley, founder of famed (and now the former) Heronswood Nursery in Kingston Washington, will be speaking at the High-Hand Nursery in Loomis on June 13th and 14th. He will give a lecture on both Saturday and Sunday - tickets are $5.00. Tickets are also available ($65) to join Hinkley and others for dinner on Saturday the 13th in High-Hand’s conservatory restaurant. Tickets include dinner and Hinkley’s newest book The Explorer’s Garden: Shrubs and Vines from the Four Corners of the World(Timber Press, 2009). If you have never read anything by Hinkley or heard him speak, this is truly a rare opportunity to hear one of the brightest (and wittiest) people in the plant world speak about his adventures. Additionally, I personally feel the need to support a plant person of this calibre venturing into the “interior” of Northern California and beyond the predictable venues in San Francisco and along the coast. Perhaps it is the start of a trend? Next stop Yuba City? Chico? Red Bluff? Redding? The sky’s the limit. As a prelude to the event, Hinkley will be a guest on In a North State Garden later in May.

For a fuller listing of regional gardening events in May, June and beyond visit the In a North State Garden Events calendar. Have an event you would like to get listed? Send me an email: Until next week - enjoy May in your North State garden!

In a North State Garden is a radio- and web-based outreach program of the Gateway Science Museum - Exploring the Natural History of the North State, based in Chico, CA. In a North State Garden celebrates the art, craft and science of home gardening in California’s North State region, and is conceived, written, photographed and hosted by Jennifer Jewell - all rights reserved In A North State Garden airs on Northstate Public Radio KCHO/KFPR radio, Saturday mornings at 7:34 AM Pacific time and Sunday morning at 8:34 AM Pacific time. Podcasts of past shows are available here. Weekly essays are also posted on a regional news source that is positively North State.