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’.
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.
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.
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.