Asplenium trichomanes

Among the aspleniums, a large group of evergreen ferns, two are widely grown in rock gardens and as pot plants. The maidenhair spleenwort, A. trichomanes, so called because of the resemblance of its pinnate fronds to those of the maidenhair fern, has a height and spread of up to 9 inches (23 cm). It is hardy but likes an alkaline soil, so include some mortar rubble in the compost.

The hart’s-tongue fern, A. sco-lopendnum, or Phyllitis scolopendnum, another hardy species, is a familiar British native. It is the only true fern with undivided fronds – it has glossy, strap-shaped evergreen leaves with wavy edges. In the case of A.s. ‘Undulatum’ the fronds are even more deeply waved at the margin. The species is a vigorous plant which quickly forms a substantial clump in an urn or trough, and can be over-wintered and divided in spring, for it is quite hardy. It will grow up to 2 feet ( cm) in the open, but probably less in the restricted space of a container. It likes quite deep shade and must have plenty of water, for it is in the rainy west country that it grows best, a common sight in the woods or stone walls.

Gardeners whose space is almost sunless could make a fern collection from the many varieties available.

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