Posts Tagged 'dry shade'

A tough, dependable fern

Nephrolepis cordifolia, Southern Sword Fern, at the De Young Museum in San FranciscoTough and dependable might seem unusual adjectives to use when describing a fern, but this guy’s adaptability is almost legendary. Because it can take such a large amount of abuse, it is often subjected to same, looking worse for wear by hanging on none-the-less.

Given half a chance, Nephrolepis cordifolia, Erect Sword Fern, will reward you with its handsome, 2-3ft (60-90cm) foliage and ask for little in return.

The upright nature of the fronds also makes a nice compliment with modern architecture (here it is against the wall of the new De Young Museum in San Francisco). I’ve often planted them en masse in rectilinear beds bordered by a patio or an impenetrable edging, which they fill over time.

There is a handsome cultivar called ‘Lemon Buttons’, whose leaflets are very short and almost round. Its overall height is shorter, reaching about 1ft (30cm). ‘Duffy’ is another dwarf cultivar.

An occasional topdressing of compost and trimming of older, untidy fronds will keep a patch of fernyness going strong year after year.

Curiously, the actual origin of this species is uncertain, and is considered ‘pantropical.’ This species is occasionally listed as invasive in wetter, more humid climates (but not recorded as invasive in summer dry mediterranean regions). In the US, it is specifically causing a problem in Hawaii, Florida, and southern counties of Georgia and Alabama, which is spreads rapidly, becoming intertwined or even displacing other understory plants. It is confused with the Florida native species, Nephrolepis exaltata, which it greatly resembles. Identification by laymen is easily made by examining the rhizomes – N. cordifolia has small, round tubers and its Floridian cousin does not.

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‘Gilva’ vs. ‘Gilva’

'Gilva' and 'Gilva'The main succulent in this photo should be familiar to those of you who have seen my garden. It is a hybrid Echeveria I’ve grown for many years under the name ‘Gilva’ (discovered and described by Eric Walther in 1935 and presumed to be a E. agavoides × E. elegans cross). The plant habit is very similar to E. elegans, offsetting freely and quickly making a nice ground cover. The arching (like E. elegans) flower spikes branch dicotomously (into two equal parts – unlike E. elegans but like E. agavoides).

Notice the potted plant in the left foreground. This is being distributed currently by Succulent Gardens as E. ‘Gilva’. The rosettes are strikingly similar, perhaps larger, seemingly slower to offset, and decidedly flushed pink at their tips (the plant above NEVER flushes pink – instead turning yellow when stressed). it also produces many more flower stems per rosette, which are un-branched and whose flowers are a bit larger, with a more distinct yellow tip to the petals.
Echeveria 'Gilva'I’ve been growing these side by side for some time now and while it is sometimes hard to tell them apart, when they reach this stage it is clear they are different plants. I still prefer the original (to me) ‘Gilva’ as it makes a much more effective ground cover and there are always lots of offsets to start new colonies or give away. The pinker ‘Gilva’ is certainly a good pot specimen, perhaps better than the former which quickly outgrows any pot.

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A blog by Seán A. O'Hara

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