Polystichum minutum

Western sword fern is one of the most ubiquitous plants on the west side of the Cascades. In many forests in the Coast Range and Cascade foothills it is the sole understory plant. Western sword  fern is a large species with long arching fronds. Adaptable to a host of situations. Often self sown spore will show up in the oddest places. I’ve seen it as an epiphyte and even self sown into hot concrete steps. In rich, acidic soil this evergreen fern soar- provided soils rich in humus, organic matter and protected from direct sun with consistent access to water. Very well adapted to our winter wet/ summer dry climate- it will cruise through dry summers unscathed. In the garden it does useful duty in the toughest, dry, shadiest sites. Along with Cast Iron Plant (Aspidistra elatior) and Ophiopogon (Lily turf) it is one of the best dry shade inhabitants. As an understory component it is often accompanied by Cascades Mahonia (Mahonia nervosa), Inside-out-flower, (Vancouveria hexandra), and Pacific Blackberry (Rubus ursinus). To 4′ x 4′ in ideal situations. Though it is evergreen western sword fern does go through a transitional period before new croziers unfurl in spring. The 3′ long fronds begin to lie flat on the ground by winter. This is the time to remove tired, old leaves. and make way for fresh, new, unfurling foliage. Though very tough western sword fern does look its best with consistent light water.  Supremely deer and rabbit resistant. Long lived and not a slow grower.  Oregon native plant.

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Polystichum neolobatum

Relatively new fern that excites us. Asian Saber Fern ( doesn’t that sound lovely- a little Klingon in the Dryopteraceae). Evergreen fern with really pretty glossy intricately serrated fronds. To 2′ x  2′ for part shade to shade in rich, moisture retentive sites. So far its been a vigorous adaptable and really nice looking fern for us. Excellent woodland appearance- in fact it looks good year round. The arctic winter of 2017 left this glossy creature completely unfazed. We like that. Should be invaluable in winter containers. Pest and disease free plant. Highly deer resistant. Spreads to form multiple rosettes.

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Polystichum setiferum var. divisilobum

Soft Shield fern is native to Alaska- well points north in general. That means its bone hardy to cold but its also a fantastic evergreen fern for dry shade in our region. Finely divided fronds taper to 2′ long. The central stem is a soft furry brown- good contrast. Spreading colony creating fern to 3′ across. It has the unique habit of vivipary. It makes small new plants spontaneously right off the frond. Useful. Good looking appearance year round. Rich, moisture retentive soil with regular water to establish. Incredibly drought adapted when older – as long as its in shade. High deer resistance. May be cut back hard in early spring to refreshen. Grows very quickly.

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Polystichum polyblepharum

Immensely handsome glossy evergreen fern with intricate large leaves Forms a large rosette up to 2 1/2′ wide and just 14″ tall. Small hairs line the stems and give this fern its specific epithet of blepharum – eyelashes. Known as Eyelash fern for this trait. Full shade to part shade in rich, moisture retentive soil. Regular summer water. Mass as a shady ground cover  or bed underneath old established shrubs. Year round good looking with no damage from the hardest winters. Easy. High deer resistance.

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