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Award Winning Shade Garden Plant

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Author: Doug Green

The 2004 Perennial Plant of the Year was Athyrium niponicum 'Pictum' or Japanese Painted Fern and this plant deserves to be in all shade gardens.

This hardy fern grows twelve to eighteen inches tall and slowly multiplies to form a large clump twenty four inches across. The fronds are approximately eighteen inches long and are a soft-grey metallic colour with hints of red and blue. The centre stem is red so the contrast is excellent. It is a lovely plant preferring partial shade rather than deep shade. It does best with regular watering rather than dry soils. The Japanese painted fern is native to Japan, Korea, China and Taiwan and once you see it unfurling its metallic grey frond in early spring, you'll be a convert and want a bit of the oriental influence in your garden. This fern colouring lends itself to being an excellent contrast plant to other shade perennials such as Hosta and the new gold coloured Carex 'Lemon Zest'. Mature plants can be divided every three to four years to provide extra plants for zealous gardeners.

There are several new varieties of Japanese painted fern that you might want to search for at your favourite garden centre. 'Pewter Lace' has metallic pewter to mint-green fronds (two toned) with red stems and extremely lacy foliage. I saw this plant last year and I can tell you it will wind up in one of my garden containers this spring to fill a contrast plant role. The second new introduction is 'Ursula's Red' and this variety has large silver leaves but the centre of each leaf is flushed with wine-red colour in the spring. It is a gorgeous fern.

When you add the award-winning 'Pictum' to the garden mix, you have an difficult choice to make. Which one to grow?

About the author

Doug Green, award-winning garden writer answers gardening questions in his free newsletter at http://www.gardening-tips-perennials.com.


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