Category Archives: Ferns

Evergreen Ferns Are Waking Up

With warm temperatures and sunny days the evergreen ferns in the garden are beginning to unfurl their new fronds. Usually I wait another few weeks before trimming frost damaged leaves, knowing we’re certain to get another cold snap or two.

One reason many say to wait before cutting off all the older, winter damaged leaves is that they help protect the emerging fresh foliage from possible freezing temperatures. Usually I listen to this advice; but it was such a pretty day, we’ve had a mild winter, and I really just wanted to get one more chore out of the way while I was thinking about it.

Knowing this,  I’ll definitely keep an eye on the weather forecasts (Being in the nursery business I’m an avid weather watcher anyway!)  and will be prepared to throw some pinestraw over these plants  during any extended periods of below freezing temperatures. It’s certainly possible, since our last average frost is the middle of April.

The holly ferns (Cyrtomium falcatum)  I decided to clean up are in a protected spot at the edge of a patio area near the house, so they’d be easy to take care of in the event of a freeze. I brought out my folding garden seat and pair of small clippers and got to work.

With holly ferns, care needs to be taken doing this so any emerging fern fiddleheads aren’t cut off. Autumn fern (Dryopteris erythrosora) and tassel ferns (Polystichum polyblepharum) are more cooperative and easier to deal with, as their old fern leaves lie flat on the ground around the crown of the plant and are easy to remove without damaging any new growth.

When I was finished, the bed looked pretty naked except for some leaf litter, which I left to help protect the crowns. By the end of March I’ll make a final clean up and remulch around these plants. For now though, I’ll enjoy watching the new growth unfurl a little more as each day grows longer on the way to spring.

By Kris Blevons

Container Gardens…Using Foliage For Color And Contrast

Mondays are the best days to put a few container combinations together before the weekly orders begin to come in for custom plantings, arrangements for parties, and the general hectic pace of spring continues.

A big hanging basket...

A big hanging basket…

 

 

 

 

 

 

The goal is to give inspiration to all of you who might be overwhelmed with the choices available or want something to take home and plop by your front door, on your porch,  or in the garden.

Contrasting leaves of coleus, grassy Carex and ajuga make a vibrant combination...

Contrasting leaves of coleus, grassy Carex and ajuga make a vibrant combination…

'Miss Muffet' caladium and 'Bounce' impatiens under planted with scotch moss...

‘Miss Muffet’ caladium and ‘Bounce’ impatiens under planted with scotch moss…

This past  weekend it was fun to talk with some ladies, two sisters and their mother, visiting from Columbus, Georgia. While the sisters browsed through the greenhouse, their mother was busily amassing quite a collection of plants to carry back with them, an alarming amount in the sisters eyes.

A black elephant ear, 'Bounce' impatiens, spiky juncus and variegated creeping fig will all appreciate steady moisture through the summer...

A black elephant ear, ‘Bounce’ impatiens, spiky juncus and variegated creeping fig will all appreciate steady moisture through the summer…

 

Contrasting leaves of Heuchera, maidenhair Fern, Babywing begonia and Fuschia 'Gartenmeister'...

Contrasting leaves of Heuchera, maidenhair Fern, Babywing begonia and Fuschia ‘Gartenmeister’…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“How are you planning to fit all this in the car.”, one of the daughters asked. “Oh, it will be fine.”, Mom said airily. “We’ll just shift some of the luggage around.”           It was such fun talking with her, answering questions about the plants she saw on her own or in various container combinations throughout the nursery and greenhouse.

This large hanging basket uses caladiums, angelvine, a Carex and a mother Fern in the very center...

This large hanging basket uses caladiums, angelvine, a Carex and a mother Fern in the very center…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m not sure exactly how they eventually managed to get all the plants in their car for the trip home, but I do know Mom would have packed the plants and shipped the luggage if it came down to it!

All foliage...

All foliage…

Some of the plantings our Georgia visitors saw are shown in this post and include foliage plants for filtered sun to shade, including coleus, the largest of which are the Kong series, big bold beauties for shade.

Don’t forget caladiums, always a stalwart…and many now also tolerate full sun. Hypoestes, or polka dot plant, comes in pink, white, or red, and Rex begonias have beautiful patterns and colors too.

The Rex begonia's leaves stand out in this planting...

The Rex begonia’s leaves stand out in this planting…

 

The trailing plant here is an episcia...

The trailing plant here is an episcia…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A trailing golden creeping Jenny or variegated creeping fig adds either gold or green and white coloring. Episcias are another beautiful choice when they’re available.

Use bloomers like the new Bounce series of impatiens, SunPatiens, Torenia (both trailing and upright), Babywing or Dragonwing begonias, and airy white euphorbia for even more color.

A large leaf coleus and a small leaf coleus share space with a SunPatiens and angel vine in a cast stone 'barn board' planter...

A large leaf coleus and a small leaf coleus share space with a SunPatiens and angel vine in a cast stone ‘barn board’ planter…

Using interesting foliage with flowers in plantings that don’t get the hot summer sun (and those that do) is always the goal for an interesting and vibrant composition.  And, as plant choices change through the season,  you’ll see different planting combinations on any given week as new plants become available and others are sold out. This changing inventory may call for creative substitutions for some plants, but that also makes it fun!

Posted by Kris Blevons 

Frosty Fern…It’s Not A Fern And Not A Moss…So What Is It?? (Or, What’s In A Name?)

When talking about plants, what’s in a name, anyway? Well, I’m glad I asked, because the plant you might have seen around town in every garden shop and grocery store that has the catchy name of “frosty fern” really isn’t a fern  at all. I know most of you don’t really care much whether it’s a real fern or not, but, having grown up with my name being spelled wrong constantly (It’s Kris with a “K”, thank you very much.), I do get a little touchy about providing the correct plant name for folks that care about these things. I can just see how it all came about…some marketing guru somewhere said brightly,  “I know!!! Let’s call it “Frosty” because it looks like the tips are frosted; and everyone will think it’s a fern, so let’s run with Frosty Fern!”

The tips of the leaves do look frosted...

The tips of the leaves do look frosted…

To confuse matters even more, some knowledgeable plant people  look at it and say, “Well, of course, it’s not a fern; that’s a spike moss, or club moss.” Now, actually, this is true, but in reality a “spike moss” isn’t a true moss either. Confused yet? Yeah, I thought you might be. Hang in there, though; it will all become clear, I promise.

Now is where we get to the good part…and the reason the plant marketers felt they had to  dream up a catchier name. The correct name for this pretty little plant is Selaginella kraussiana, a name that almost rolls off the tongue…sellaahhginellaaahhh. What do you think?  No? That’s what I thought. Okay, it’s enough  for me that you are at least now aware that this plant is not a fern and not a moss. So let’s talk about what it is and how to take care of it.

This selaginella certainly could  be mistaken for a fern, with its tiny leaves and wispy appearance. But, if you look closely, the leaves are flat and look forked. Which, I suppose, is also how it comes by its other common name, spike or club moss.  The coloring of the leaf tips is natural; another selaginella, Selaginella uncinata, sometimes called peacock moss (Now it’s a moss; see how confusing this gets?), has beautiful iridescent blue-green leaves.

These plants are actually part of  an interesting group of plants called fern-allies, not actually related to ferns  but sharing the same reproductive means –  spores.

Here it's paired with a myrtle topiary and a few stems of pussy willow...

Here it’s paired with a myrtle topiary and a few stems of pussy willow…

Selaginellas have  become naturalized in parts of Portugal, Spain, and New Zealand, though they’re originally from Africa. They make quite wonderful terrarium plants since they’re happiest with good humidity and consistent moisture during the growing season. Like most plants, growth slows in  fall and winter, so be sure to cut back on the water during those months and let them dry a bit between drinks.

Try to keep the humidity up as high as possible, especially if you plan on keeping one in your home through the winter months when your furnace is running and air gets drier.  An easy way to do this is to place your selaginella on a shallow tray of pebbles filled  with water just to the bottom of it. Sit your pot on the pebbles, taking care not to sink the pot in the water. As the water evaporates it will add moisture to the air around your plant.

Selaginella kraussiana ('frosty fern)They prefer temperatures above 50 degrees, the perfect range being anywhere from 75 – 80 degrees F.  If  temperatures drop lower, the foliage can be  prone to fungal problems and the tips of their tiny leaves will turn brown. So, if you are using them in outdoor shade planters through the summer, keep this in mind as the temperatures cool in the fall.

Bright but indirect light is best, either early morning or late afternoon if inside. Too much direct sun will cause the leaves to wilt and burn. Be careful not to over feed your selaginella, as too much fertilizer can also cause  wilting and yellowing of leaves.

So, whatever you choose to call it, you now know its proper name  (And don’t we all want to be called by our correct name?), and the marketing gurus haven’t got the last word after all!

 

 

 

More Holiday Inspiration – Arrangements, Flowers and Greens – Part 2

Redtwig dogwood stems echo the red of this striking bowl...

Redtwig dogwood stems echo the red of this striking bowl, filled with rieger begonias, amaryllis and ferns…

Simply hydrangeas...

Simply hydrangeas…

 

 

 

Holiday Arrangement - Close-Up- Lady Slipper Orchi, Air Plants

Lady slipper orchid…

The greenhouse is literally overflowing with so many flowers we’ve had to move most of them onto the tables outside.

 

 

 

Holiday Arrangement

Traditional red poinsettias…

Holiday Arrangement -  Shooting Star Hydrangea,Amaryllis, Curly Willow

With curly willow, cinnamon sticks and cut greens…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Many of these holiday flowers – hydrangeas, amaryllis, paperwhites, azaleas, stephanotis, flowering jasmine, and cyclamen – prefer the cool temperatures.  It works out well, unless temperatures drop below freezing; then the nursery carts are loaded up and they’re moved back into the warmth of the greenhouse.

Phalaenopsis orchid in mercury glass with cut greens and berries...

Jamie added cut greens and berries to this phalaenopsis orchid in a Mercury glass container…

Orchids and air plants...

Orchids and air plants…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Holiday Arrangement - Amaryllis, Shooting Star Hydrangea, Fantail Willow

Amaryllis, hydrangea, jasmine…

 

Holiday Orchid Arrangement with Phalaenopsis Orchids and Jasmine

A gift of orchids and jasmine…

There it’s a riot of color, with orchids seemingly in every nook and cranny, trays of ferns and other foliage plants in abundance, and of course, poinsettias too.  It’s a crazy, slightly chaotic time of the year!

 

 

 

 

The two weeks prior to Christmas find us focused on projects big and small in the design area, and there’s not much time for anything else.

A tiny pot with cut greens...

A tiny pot with cut greens…

 

 

 

We’ll put plants in just about anything, including porcelain and glazed bowls, mercury glass containers, pots of every size and shape, jardinieres, wooden boxes, dough bowls, silver pieces and everything else imaginable. You can too!

 

 

 

The End Of The Season…Fall Arrangements

A reindeer moss wreath, with burlap and pods...

A reindeer moss wreath, with burlap and pods…

A copper planter for a table. Jamie's colorful fall design of chartreuse, orange and white...

A copper planter for a table. Jamie’s colorful fall design of chartreuse, orange and white…

Autumn  passes far too quickly. As usual, when a season is nearing the end, I find myself wishing I’d made the time to take more pictures of the many arrangements that we’ve created the past few weeks. Jamie, Molly, and I looked through those we had and here are a few of them – a simple goodbye to the autumn season for another year as we set our sights ahead to the holidays.

A vignette Jamie created with an orchid, sedum, tiny pumpkins and more...

A vignette Jamie created with an orchid, sedum, tiny pumpkins and more…

Pinkie used little white pumpkins, succulents, and bittersweet in a dough bowl...

Pinkie used little white pumpkins, succulents, and bittersweet in this dough bowl…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This simple tray became home to a gourd, mushrooms and moss, with Heuchera and autumn Fern adding more rich color...

My simple tray became home to a gourd, mushrooms and moss, with Heuchera and Autumn Fern adding more rich color…

A dough bowl Jamie designed...

A dough bowl Jamie designed…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fall is a favorite time, as the materials we work with are so interesting and organic. There’s none of the shiny, glittery, in-your-face glitz that will be here, oh, so soon enough, with the approach of Christmas. No, this time of year is quieter, as we embrace the down-to-earth beauty of mushrooms, soft green moss, natural branches, dark wiry angelvine, pods of all kinds, and interesting gourds. I enjoy the combinations that result, melded at times with the muted tones of burlap and raffia.

Molly's spirited fall arrangement with bright yellow Oncidium orchids...

Molly’s spirited fall arrangement with bright yellow Oncidium orchids…

I really enjoyed creating this "woodsy" piece...

I really enjoyed creating this “woodsy” piece…

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fall flowers in pretty pots for a fall luncheon...

For a fall luncheon..

Oncidium Orchid 'Twinkle' Arrangement With Okra Pods and Pinecones

Oncidium ‘Twinkle’ in a sweet combination of Jamie’s. Okra pods and pinecones add even more texture…

My simple lady slipper orchid arrangement, watched over by pretty Tacca, our garden shop kitty…

 

 

Dená carved this pretty blue pumpkin, and daughter, Molly, planted it...

Dená carved this pretty blue pumpkin and daughter, Molly, planted it…

We see such interesting pieces in the fall too. Earthy dough bowls, dark metal planters and copper containers, low wooden trays just perfect for mossy vignettes, a majolica bowl the right size and shape for a woodsy arrangement. Soon enough we’ll be making quite different sorts of combinations through the holidays, with quite different materials. For now though, I’m content to enjoy these last few days of fall.

A colorful fall piece Molly created using houseplants and mini pumpkins...

A final fall piece Molly created using houseplants and mini pumpkins…

 

Planted For Shade – Chez Fonfon Planters – Summer 2014

The large square planters outside chef Frank Stitt’s French bistro, Chez Fonfon, are my babies to plant each season, and it was interesting to see how things fared after a particularly harsh winter. Not surprisingly, even with the excellent maintenance their staff provides, it was time to redo for the summer heat.

Chez Fonfon Shade Planters - A New SeasonA testament to its common name of cast iron plant, the aspidistra looked amazingly good considering the bone-chilling temperatures Birmingham dipped to in January.  It only needed a few leaves cut out, and no thinning was required this season…probably due to the cold. A heuchera, that had been added in the winter planting for its beautiful leaves, was removed to be planted in a bed at another of the Stitt’s restaurants, Bottega.  I also removed the branches that had been added to give extra interest in the winter planting.

This year, instead of using the Aaron caladium of last summer, I switched it up and put in some caladiums that are all white, named ‘Garden White’. They should get quite large and work well with the kimberly queen fern, a tropical fern with an upright growth habit.  Next, a couple of white sunpatiens were placed. These will also add mass to the center of the planter and, with the trailing white torenia, add more color to this shady spot.

I love foliage in planters such as these, so I couldn’t resist using Carex ‘Evergold’ to spill over the edge, along with torenia and a pot of angelvine, muehlenbeckia complexa, a tough-as- nails little vine that will also trail.

Chez Fonfon Shade Planters...Caladiums and More For SummerTorenia is an interesting plant, useful in shade plantings such as this. The white one used here (They are also available in blue, purple, magenta, and a yellow.) will trail over the edge of the planter, but there are also plants in this same genus that grow more upright and are useful in garden beds and planters in light shade as well. This is a good plant to get to know, since regular bedding plant impatiens are susceptible to downy mildew of impatiens.

So…another planting finished. The best part is yet to come, though, as patrons and passersby can watch the transformation of small plants as they gradually  grow together and flourish with  a little help from the capable staff of this fine Birmingham restaurant.

 

 

Branching Out…A Teal Bowl Planting

Laying the branches...

Laying the branches…

Adding the bird's nest fern...

Adding the bird’s nest fern…

Lichen covered branches are so beautiful in their own right, but we ultimately are a plant shop and every project we create begins and ends with plants; so, incorporating these branches into our designs has been a lot of fun.

This one started with a beautiful, large teal colored glazed bowl, really very pretty all on it’s own. I chose a few lichen covered branches and positioned one upright on an angle into the potting soil and laid the other across so I had some planting pockets to work with. The ends needed just a few loose lichens and moss glued to them to cover where they’d been cut.

The trick when using something like this is in not hiding the beauty of the branch and finding plants to compliment both the color of the bowl and the added texture of the lichen as well. Of course, the plants also have to work together as far as water and light needs.

Wandering the greenhouse contemplating the choices, I decided to go the woodsy route, with ferns as the go to for this planting. So, a bird’s nest fern, Asplenium nidus; button fern, Pellaea rotundifolia; a selaginella,; and an austral gem fern, Asplenium dimorphum x difforme, were gathered.

Finished...

Finished…

The bird’s nest fern was the largest, and I placed it toward the front and tipped forward to show off its form. The button fern was the next to be placed, the austral gem fern was tucked in the back (not shown in these pictures) and, last, a small selaginella was added to the front to spill over the edge.

A smaller, more delicate lichen branch connects the two larger ones and gives it a pretty, woodsy look in contrast with the glazed container – ying and yang in a pot!

Miniature Gardens As Centerpieces…

tiny cloche...

tiny cloche…

In a few short weeks Mountain Brook’s  Little Garden Club, a charter member of the Garden Club of America, will host a regional zone meeting and flower show. It will take place April, 2014, and a lot of folks are involved in planning this important event. Members of GCA clubs will be attending from the surrounding states, so there will be a lot of visitors!

Miniature Garden

 

 

 

 

Miniature Garden

I’ll be assisting with a number of others in the “passing” of the horticultural exhibits – clearing them for entry into the flower show to be judged. I was very flattered to be asked and happy to help with this event, which has been two years in the planning.

Miniature GardenWhat does all this have to do with miniature gardens, you ask? Well, these tiny gardens have been very  popular the past number of years, and the garden club organizers decided it would be a fun thing to have on some of the tables for one of their meetings. And they turned to Oak Street Garden Shop for help.

The containers we chose are metal, and they will be wrapped with aspidistra leaves to make a “Ribbon of Green”, the theme of this year’s meeting.

These pictures show how some turned out. The miniature gardens are designed to continue living as a true garden, so plant material is chosen accordingly, with only minor exceptions.

imageBecause these take a great deal of time to make, I finally gave up on waiting for new miniature garden accessories I’d ordered since my deadline to have them completed was looming…but I still had plenty of fun things to play with. If you’ve ever made one of these gardens in miniature, you’re well aware how detailed and time consuming they are.

For some of the centerpieces I chose succulents, including haworthias and sedums, which work well for tiny plantings. Pilea ‘Aquamarine’ is a low grower with a great color; it just needs clipping regularly to keep it from overrunning its neighbors.

Miniature GardenTiny pots of ordinary houseplants also work in these gardens. Little parlor palms, ferns, polka dot plants and baby podocarpus make good companions, and selaginella is a pretty groundcover.

It’s nice to have different sizes of pebbles to create paths and larger stones to create “boulders”. Can you see the turtle sitting on one?

There’s still more tweaking to do (Just like a real garden that is never “done”!), and one more not even started yet…but that story is for another post. If you’re in the Birmingham area, stop in and take a look. They’re even more fun in person!

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

The Garden Is Waking Up…Don’t Forget To Look Down!

Lenten Roses blooming below the rocks....

Lenten Roses blooming below the rocks….

After this winter’s double polar vortex whammy, I’ve been a little unsure what to expect in the garden. Is the confederate jasmine alive? I scratch its bark; it’s green near the bottom of the vine so I’ll need to cut it back to live wood. Will the black elephant ears that are in the water down by the rock outcrop come up this year? No sign yet but I’m still hopeful. They’ve been there for 8 years at least!

Southern maidenhair fern waking up...

Southern maidenhair fern waking up…

 

 

 

And what about the salvias? My Mexican Sage  is definitely gone, but I see tiny green leaves on the blue Salvia ‘Indigo Spires’. The forsythia sage looks like it is reappearing too. That is a huge surprise.

Tassel Fern croziers beginning to unfurl...

Tassel Fern croziers beginning to unfurl…

 

 

 

As I walk, I see the ferns are finally beginning to awaken, and, amid the blooming lenten roses, the southern maidenhair fern is finally up and beginning to unfurl  dainty spring green fronds.

Japanese painted fern...

Japanese painted fern…

The holly ferns  took a big hit; I’ve cut them back completely. Some are showing signs of life, others aren’t. I see it’s going to be a waiting game. Last season’s winter-tattered  tassel fern fronds  are laying flat on the ground, and I cut them back. The new, coppery-colored croziers will unfurl more each day, reaching for the light. The garden is coming back to life!

Virginia bluebells...

Virginia bluebells…

I’ve wondered if the Japanese painted ferns would make it. Perhaps I worry too much, because now I see  a single frond, and then more. They blend  into the rock behind them, but I know where to search. I’m so happy to see them. There should  be more soon if the changeable March weather doesn’t turn fickle on me.

Bloodroot...

Bloodroot…

Every day I walk through the garden, searching for more – the native wildflowers with names like rue anemone, virginia bluebells, crinkle root, trillium, jacob’s ladder, bloodroot, hepatica, blue woodland phlox. These are the tiny ones, the spring ephemerals that somehow know to begin growing  with longer, warmer days.

Soon I’ll begin to look up in the garden as well. The buds of the viburnums are getting larger, and the spiraeas are  beginning to bloom. I know more and more will vie for my attention. For now, though, I’ll continue to look down, searching for spring.

Spring is coming to the nursery too!  If you’re looking for treasures for your garden or just enjoy stopping by, come in to see our beautiful selection of  shrubs, perennials, native plants and more. It’s a feast for the senses!

Below are the latin names for plants mentioned in this post:

Confederate jasmine – Trachelospermum jasminoides; Black Elephant Ears – Colocasia sp.   Mexican Sage – Salvia leucantha; Indigo Spires Salvia –  Salvia x ‘Indigo Spires’ ; Forsythia Sage – Salvia madrensis; Lenten Rose – Helleborus orientalis; Southern Maidenhair Fern – Adiantum cappilaris; Holly Fern – Cyrtomium falcatum; Tassel Fern – Polystichum polyblepharum; Japanese Painted Fern – Athyrium niponicum; Virginia Bluebells – Mertensia virginica; Blue Woodland Phlox – Phlox divaricata;  Jacob’s Ladder – Polemonium reptans; Crinkle Root  – Cardamine diphylla;         Rue Anemone  – Thalictrum thalictroides; Bloodroot  – Sanguinaria canadensis.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Contained – In Cork…Indoors Now, Then Outside For the Summer!

I planted this cork planter the other day for a birthday celebration. This one has a double duty life ahead of it: First, as part of a happy get-together, then, later, outdoors, possibly in a shady nook for the rest of the growing season.

Cork Bark Planter - Autumn Fern, Rex Begonia, Angelvine, Nephthitis, Selaginella 'Frosty', Tooth Brake Fern, Bird's Nest FernThese pieces can be used either horizontally, planting along the top, or vertically, like I’ve designed this one, positioning the plants up the planter. Since it could be unsteady if it didn’t have something to stabilize it at the base, I placed it in a pulp planter that I’d covered with a layer of sheet moss. A plastic saucer underneath will protect the floor during its time indoors, then it can be used without the saucer out in the garden or on a patio, porch or other spot  that has some shade.

nephthytis, tooth brake fern, rex begonia and selaginella 'Frosty' nestled together...

nephthytis, tooth brake fern, rex begonia and selaginella ‘Frosty’ nestled together…

Because the cork has a tendency to open up as potting soil and plants are inserted, I also wrap it tightly with bark covered wire after it’s all planted and add  green sheet moss to keep everything in place. We were surprised when our first plantings gradually opened up, threatening to disgorge all the plants we’d carefully positioned, but the bark wire has been a good remedy.

Close-up Cork Bark Planter - Autumn Fern, Rex Begonia, Angelvine, Selaginella 'Frosty'This planting  has a variety of houseplants, including nephthytis, used for its lighter green and white foliage, rex begonias for a bit of color, tooth brake ferns and a bird’s nest fern, a  new selaginella with white tips called ‘Frosty’, and a large autumn fern in the top with angel vine spilling over the edge with one last, large rex begonia.

We’re getting in a new shipment of these cork bark pieces at the end of the month, so if you’d like to try your hand at planting one or you’d like us to plant one for you, stop in!