Last night’s club lecture on ferns proved to be something of an eye opener for those members unfamiliar with pteridology, or the study of ferns: rather than uniform in shade and shape, these plants range from minuscule to several feet in circumference, they include tree ferns, and the leaves or fronds can be long, thin, sharp or rounded and with different frills. As a species, they are extremely old, as well as versatile – they are found in almost all countries and in different climate situations.
Their life cycle is as fascinating as it is unusual: each plant releases millions of spores, almost as a cloud of dust, from their casing at the back of a frond; when they find a suitably damp spot they grow into tiny plantlets, after which male swimmers from one plantlet swim across to reach the female bits of another, fertilisation follows, and a new adult plant grows.
Julian, who joined the Pteriodology Society in 2007 and has since served in various official capacities, is also the current Plant Heritage National Collection Holder of Polypodium Cultivars, and was awarded the Silver Gilt Medal for a stand of Polypodium and Athyrium (most grown in his own garden) in the Plant Heritage Section at the 2017 RHS Hampton Court Show.
Julian was most generous in his advice on propagation (spores, vegetative) and the cultivation of ferns, as well as their protection against frost and general care (including tips on cooking ferns so as not to poison oneself!)
Leaflets from the BPS were freely available for members, and he offered to answer any further questions if submitted via the www.ebps.org.uk website (beautiful and informative). Also, for a few extra tips on fern care, click on this link.
The Grayshott Gardeners plant sale featuring small irises and snowdrops grown by Gordon Rae did brisk business, and was most apposite, as Julian noted that ferns form the perfect backdrop to snowdrops.