Tatting Fern

In my temperate coastal garden all sorts of ferns grow very happily.  Ample rainfall, coolish temperatures and narrow daylight (a nod to Diana Krall, I love the expression) provide the perfect conditions to grow these primitive plants.  I have planted several ferns in my new garden, and the most unusual of these is the Tatting Fern, Athyrium filix-femina ‘Frizelliae’.

Tatting fern

Tatting fern in October, looking a little tattered

At first I thought the moniker ‘Frizelliae’ was some spelling challenged persons’ adaptation of frizzly, but 30 seconds of internet research informs me that:

This cultivated form was preserved from a strain first spotted in Ireland in the County Wicklow garden of a certain Mrs. Frizell, in 1857. “It grew between two boulders so fast & with so little soil,” said Mrs. Frizell, “that it was with great difficulty my husband removed it.” Paghat’s Garden

I still think frizzly works, my young plant looks like a frizzly head of dreadlocks!

I also had to look up tatting, because I’m absolutely ignorant of any of the domestic arts requiring needles, thread, yarn or fabric.  If I must, I can replace a button, but that’s the limit of my ability.  According to Wikipedia; Tatting is a technique for handcrafting a particularly durable lace constructed by a series of knots and loops.  Well I thought it sounded like something my Grandma might have done, and I was right. tatting photo courtesy photobucket

Because this lady fern is somewhat diminutive, growing only 18-24” tall and 15-18” wide, I placed her in a prominent place, nestled in front of an old bottomless oak wine barrel in which a Japanese maple grows.  In her first season “Frizzly” was rather uninspiring, sprouting about half a dozen narrow, lumpy fronds.

I thought that our long, cold winter had killed the tatting fern because she took forever to unfurl new fronds in the spring.  All my other ferns were well on their way before she stirred, but once she got going and I could see considerably more fronds than the previous season, I began to appreciate her exotic looks.

Tatting Fern Athyrium filix-femina 'Frizelliae'

Tatting Fern Athyrium filix-femina 'Frizelliae'

I love the way this fern arches against the weathered grey of the oak barrel, as well as the textural contrast with a Corsican Hellebore (helleborus argutifolius)  planted nearby.  I’ve read that the cultivar is unstable and the fronds may normalize after a several years.  We’ll see…

In the meantime I will enjoy the rather alien look of my Tatting Fern and chuckle at visitors to my garden who don’t quite believe that this oddity is actually a fern.

About hortophile

I am a very opinionated, slightly obsessed gardener with decades of experience in the retail nursery industry. A lucky resident of the "Wet Coast" of British Columbia I tread a muddy path between practicality and beauty, with my veggie patch, herb garden and fruits vying for position with the beautiful trees, shrubs and flowers that I can't resist. DON'T ask me to choose between them! I believe in environmental responsibility and common sense.
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6 Responses to Tatting Fern

  1. barb19 says:

    Wow – I love that fern, it’s so unusual! Wish I could grow them here (if we even have them in Oz), but it might be too hot for them as I live in the sub-tropics of Queensland. I will Google it and find out . . . but thanks for the photos and the information on this gorgeous and rare fern.

  2. Pingback: Athyrium filix-femina | Find Me A Cure

  3. Pingback: Lady fern | Find Me A Cure

  4. The Pittsburgh Botanic Garden is selling this fern in its fundraising plant sale this Spring. We haven’t been able to find a good photo to use in our brochure and website for the sale. Would you be willing to let us use your photo? We will include any attribution you wish. It will be sent out to about 3500 Garden supporters.
    Thanks for your consideration, and we look forward to hearing from you.

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