The Japanese Painted Fern (Athyrium niponicum pictum) is one of the most colorful ferns in the garden, gray-green, burgundy, green, always noticeable and adaptable. I have a colony of them under my Chanticleer Pear Tree along with Huchera Villosa, Lirope Spicata and Astrantia Lars Major (Masterwort). They unfurl about the time my early bulbs have finished, and continue sending up new fronds throughout the summer season. They will take a good amount of morning sun filtered by the leaves of the pear tree.
Last year I found a new fern that grew taller with less spread. It was called the Ghost Fern (Athyrium 'Ghost') and literature was touting it as a companion for the Japanese Painted Fern. I didn't want it as a companion but needed it to come up behind my Rhododendrums interspersed with August Moon and Halcyon hosta. My tag said it would grow to three feet, although I am getting mixed messages from some of the descriptions out there. It has more gray-green no burgundy and I really do not see them as being alike in any way. They grow narrow and tall not broad and spreading.
At the symposium I attended last week the Perennials in Focus group was concerned that people would not purchase it because it was so similar to Japanese Painted Fern. I didn't have an opportunity to tell them that after I purchased the first few I could no longer find it at Home Depot and had to go to my high-end nursery and pay double to fill in my plan. It is obviously more popular than they realized!