Monday, March 08, 2010

Ghost Fern Versus Japanese Painted Fern

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!


Anonymous said...

Dear Eileen, I do like the way in which you are clearly mass planting these ferns [regardless of increased cost!!]. No, I agree, there do not seem to be many similarities between the Japanese Painted Fern and the Ghost Fern.

I grow, or rather struggle with, the Painted Fern which I think is lovely but has never done well for me. Do you think it likes acidic soil? Mine is neutral.

Becca's Dirt said...

I love ferns of all kinds and the Ghost Fern looks good too. This year I am doing a shade garden under a large pecan tree in my front yard. I plan on using a few varieties of ferns.

Hate to hear you are still having cold weather. Finally it has warmed up here. Absolutely gorgeous this weekend. I am sending you some sunshine to warm you up.

Gatsbys Gardens said...

Hi Edith,

Japanese Painted Fern is supposed to grow in neutral to acid soil. It likes moisure and organic matter but does not like to sit in wet soil. It will take some sun.

I did read that they like pine needles so this tells me that they might need some acid type fertilizer. I just use an organic 5-3-3 granular fertilizer in the spring.


Gatsbys Gardens said...

I know Becca, I have a friend who I just spoke to on Saturday. She is in Aiken, SC, and was going outside to plant rose bushes.

We are a little warmer, rainy, in the 40's. I still see the snow on the ground. I love ferns around a tree.


Catherine@AGardenerinProgress said...

It is a very pretty fern, but other than the shape of the fronds it doesn't look like the Japanese Painted Fern. It sounds pretty the way you are planting it. I just noticed my Painted Fern starting to sprout today.

Gatsbys Gardens said...

The Ghost Fern is a little more gray than the picture. However, I agree with you they do not really look similar.


allanbecker-gardenguru said...

Thanks for bringing Ghost Fern to my attention. I get so overwhelmed, by the assortment at the nursery and by the size of my shopping list, that a subtle-looking plant such as this one would might not get noticed.

joey said...

Now you're talking to me, Eileen! I have hundreds of Japanese Painted ferns (that must love me) and also a few Ghost Ferns. I am 'fern fanatic' but shade gardening is my favorite!

Gatsbys Gardens said...

Allan, I will let you know how this one comes back this spring. They are difficult to find in my area, like I said Home Depot had them for a short time and then gone. I had to spend about $18 each for the two extras that I bought.


Gatsbys Gardens said...

Joey, now I know who to go to with my fern questions! I have one group of ferns up front that I cannot identify. When it warms up, I will take a picture and see if you know what it is.