Encyclopedia of Garden Fernsby Sue Olsen
Gardeners who seek an up-to-date, authoritative guide to the wealth of garden-worthy ferns available today will find none better than Sue Olsen. Drawing from four decades of experience as a fern specialist, Olsen leads the reader through every genus with horticultural merit, focusing primarily on the temperate species but also including tropical ones. In this
Gardeners who seek an up-to-date, authoritative guide to the wealth of garden-worthy ferns available today will find none better than Sue Olsen. Drawing from four decades of experience as a fern specialist, Olsen leads the reader through every genus with horticultural merit, focusing primarily on the temperate species but also including tropical ones. In this comprehensive reference, Olsen presents succinct descriptions, habitat information, and cultural recommendations for more than 960 ferns, accompanied by 700 color photographs. Early chapters focus on ferns in history, as well as on cultivation, propagation, and structure. A series of appendices highlights qualities that will enable gardeners to further refine their choices, such as which species will tolerate dry shade, boggy conditions, strong sunlight, or other special conditions. Rounding out the volume are useful lists (with contact information) of places to see and purchase ferns.
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Read an Excerpt
Preface Many years ago while querying me as a potential juror, an attorney asked about my nursery, Foliage Gardens. I told him that I was a fern grower and he responded, somewhat dismissively, “Ah, houseplants.” “No,” I replied, “outdoor ferns.” “Oh!” said he, as my respect for his powers of observation plummeted, “I didn’t know that ferns grew outdoors.” Ferns do indeed grow outdoors. There are approximately twelve thousand species worldwide and technically they all grow outdoors somewhere. They are presently found on every continent except Antarctica, and fossil evidence shows that two hundred million years ago they were growing there as well. Most are native to the tropics, where they thrive in lush abundance in warmth and humidity, but I have seen them in the wild (tree ferns at that) basking at the forward edges of imposing glaciers in New Zealand and settled in the protection of rocks in forbidding alpine terrains worldwide. Temperate ferns, which are the primary focus of this book, sweep in native magnificence across the Northern Hemisphere including North America, Eurasia, Japan, China, Korea, and the Himalayas. They are also well represented in the floristically rich Southern Hemisphere, especially New Zealand, South Africa, and Australia as well as at high altitudes along the spine of the Andes in Chile and Argentina. In cultivation, ferns enjoyed a fashionable period in Victorian Britain before being replaced by another trend du jour. Horticulturally, they were then out of favor until an awakening of enthusiasm, accompanied by a renewal of literary attention, in the 1960s. International explorations and exchanges which provide an ever-increasing variety and availability have helped to establish a firm place for ferns in horticulture and gardens throughout the world today. The benevolent maritime climatic conditions, lacking extremes of temperatures (usually), that characterize the coastal U.S. Pacific Northwest and most of Britain are especially conducive to temperate fern cultivation. However, enthusiastic growers everywhere are establishing collections that are appropriate for their habitats, rewarding for their interest, and educational for all. More than seven hundred of these ferns are illustrated and close to one thousand are described herein. My goal has been to present the ferns by illustration, information, and example so that they bring to you what I have sought for myself in doing research over the past forty years, and that is explicit help on identification along with cultivation guidelines, enriched where possible with anecdotal insights. The photos are all from 35-mm slides—no digital enhancement here! I use Fujichrome ASA 400 speed film and an Olympus OM4T camera with assorted lenses. By choice I never use a flash (it gives the subjects an artificial sheen) but do occasionally use a tripod. As an editor I have read reviews over the years stating emphatically, “This is not a coffee table book,” the implication being that such a work is somehow lacking substance. I would be happy to have this be a coffee table book, so long, that is, as you read it. And may it serve on the research shelf as well. Happy growing!
Meet the Author
Sue Spooner Olsen developed a love of ferns in the late 1960s and has been studying, propagating, and writing about them ever since. Her fern nursery, Foliage Gardens, has introduced numerous ferns to North American horticulture and is the oldest mail-order nursery in the United States for spore-grown temperate ferns. Sue was a founding member and first president of the Hardy Fern Foundation, and has served since then as editor of Hardy Fern? Quarterly. Her interest and joy in photography date back to childhood and the gift of a simple box camera. She has shared her photos and plant knowledge in lectures in England and throughout North America. Sue is a graduate of Cornell University.
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