No Man is Poor Who Has Fronds
Even gardeners like myself who gravitate to bright colors realize that from time to time you have to pause to appreciate the more subtle beauties of foliage. May is a good time to do that, because the fronds and leaves are so fresh and the green-deprived winter months are not yet a distant memory.
May is certainly a good month for ferns, especially the ostrich ferns (Matteuccia struthiopteris) that emerge early in the month and then start a mad dash to grow as big as they possibly can, which is pretty big (up to 6′, though mine stop at about 4′). A friend of mine recently got a fern for the garden as a mother’s day gift, she was worried that it required too much coddling. I should have offered her a free ostrich fern, which will thrive pretty much anywhere there is shade and moist soil.
There are also some inherited ferns in the back garden. Not sure what species these are.
There are also lady ferns (Athyrium filix-femina) growing in several spots, including with these wild ginger (Asarum canadensis) on the west side of the house. Lady ferns are a smaller fern but its delicate looks are deceptive – it is a fern that can take care of itself. By the way, for a long time I thought it was felix-femina, not filix. I suspected that felix-femina meant cat lady, because of, you know, Felix the Cat. However, I recently discovered that felix means lucky and filix just means fern. So Athyrium filix-femina is not the cat lady fern, which is too bad when you think about it.
Some people prefer the European wild ginger (Asarum europaeum), which has smaller, shiny leaves. For myself, I like the downy texture and soft green of the native North American wild ginger. Both plants make excellent groundcovers for shade. By the way, neither is actually a culinary ginger, but the roots do have a ginger smell.
Starry solomon’s plume (Smilacena stellata) has tiny white flowers but its best features are its foliage and the striped berries that emerge in summer. This plant does not grow thickly enough to be used as a ground cover and needs to be mixed with others.
Penstemon ‘Husker Red’ (Penstemon digitalis) won’t bloom for about another month but the reddish foliage provides a bit of drama.
I used to be prejudiced against Epimediums, however lately I have come to appreciate their willingness to grow in dry shade where others will languish and die. And I suppose they are attractive in their way. This is an inherited Epimedium of unknown variety.
I like my ‘Sutherland Gold’ red elderberry (Sambucus racemosa), which is entering its second season in my garden. The flowers aren’t too exciting, but the foliage is interesting and I have a fondness for plants with red berries. I also have several native red elderberries on the west side of the house.
This post is a contribution to Garden Bloggers’ Foliage Day, which is sponsored by Christina at My Hesperides Garden. Click the link to see more exciting and appealing foliage.