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