When we think of evergreens we first think of trees and shrubs – pines, junipers, conifers. However, there are many evergreen perennials that will remain green through the winter. They work great mixed into garden beds or into containers for the fall season especially because they will hold up through the winter. One of our favorites to use are a number of varieties of evergreen ferns. Ferns in general are a group of about 12,000 species of plants. First appearing in fossils dated to the early-Carboniferous period (about 359 Million years ago) with the first evidence of several modern families of ferns showing up in fossils from the late Cretaceous period (about 66 Million years ago). In other words, ferns are one of the first plants and will stand the test of time in the garden! They are unique and beautiful plants that reproduce with spores, not seeds. They also do not flower. New growth on ferns emerge as curled fiddleheads which unroll into fronds. Each frond contains small green leaves that vary slightly in shape and texture. Most ferns are shade lovers and those with shady yards love them equally as well. They look beautiful grouped together or with other fern varieties and shade plants. Our favorite evergreen varieties include:
Shiny Bristle Fern – Unique selection for the woodland garden. Fronds are 24″ long. Stays consistently dark green in all seasons. Makes a wonderful vertical element for your container garden.
Golden Mist Wood Fern – New growth emerges a beautiful golden color that matures to green. Great fall color! 18″ tall by 2 feet wide.
Dixie Wood Fern – A rare selection! This east coast native fern has dramatic, upright, semi-evergreen foliage reaching up to 4 feet tall and 2 feet wide. A great choice for the rear of the woodland border.
Tassel Fern- Dark green rounded fronds are 18″-24″ in length. Grows in full to part shade.
Japanese Holly Fern – These dark green and glossy leaves resemble holly leaves. Fronds grow to 24″-30″ long.
Autumn Fern – This beautiful fern is so named because of the copper color of young leaves. Maturing to a dark green, frond grow upright to 24″ tall and return to an autumn color in fall.
NEW Radiance Autumn Fern – This spectacular fern has year round interest! Spring fronds emerge in reds, oranges and pinks that hold their color until summer when they mature to green. Autumn brings a second foliage display when foliage turns to copper tones. Hardy and drought resistant too!
Shaggy Shield – Medium sized fern 18-24″ tall and wide with upright, arching fronds. Very attractive. Semi-evergreen and prefers wet soils.
Plant some of these now and they are sure to give a breath of life to your garden beds this winter. Plant them in beds with other shade perennials and shrubs like camellia japonica and aucuba. Add them to containers with Heucheras, Tiarellas and Heucherellas for dramatic foliage contrast. Mix in pansies and snap dragons to add colorful blooms and have an interesting combination to last until spring. See additional information on cool weather plants.