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Ferns Are Ferntastic

That's not my slogan, but I am sympathetic to the sentiment, ’cause I like ferns. I'm not sure how many gardeners really get excited by ferns, but last Thursday we went to hear someone who does. His name is John Mickel, and he has been Curator of Ferns at the New York Botanical Garden since 1969. We attended a lecture at Swarthmore sponsored by the Hardy Plant Society called “Hot New Ferns for American Gardens.” John gets excited by ferns, and his enthusiasm was contagious. After the slide show, we both had several new ideas for ferns we'd like to add to the garden.

Not that I'm much of gardener (I only grow one kind of fern), but I enjoy hearing about the plants as much as trying to grow them. One highlight of the lecture had to do with “fiddleheads,” which are the edible fronds of ferns and are shaped like the head of a violin. (They can be served either hot or cold and taste much like asparagus.) John pointed out the obvious—all ferns have fiddleheads—then went on to reveal that the edible kind come from the ostrich fern. Since first tasting fiddleheads, I had always wondered where they came from.

After the lecture, John was available in the lobby to sign his book (which I already owned, but neglected to bring with me). With each book sold, he included a bumper sticker that read “Ferns Are Ferntastic.” Corny but true.


Baby ostrich fern

Anne took this picture of one of our ostrich ferns earlier this week not long after it first appeared above ground. It's about three inches tall.

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