All spring and summer I've been enjoying posts by Altoon Sultan of Studio and Garden about what she discovers on her walks in the woods near her house in Vermont. In particular, I've been fascinated by the mushrooms and ferns she finds. As an urban dweller I have to create my "woods," which I've done by planting a grove of five River Birch trees. Then I followed up by putting in an assortment of ferns.
Christmas Fern (pictured here) us one of my favorites because of its very upright habit. It's a member of the Polystichum family (specifically P. acrostichoides), which also includes the holly, sword and shield ferns.
The other thing I love about this fern is its beautiful spores. John T. Mickel, in "Ferns for American Gardens," says the spores are typically so dark brown as to be almost black. However, he says, a few species have yellow spores.
I would put my Christmas fern in the latter category. Though I would call this color more gold or umber. It positively glows on the backs of these ferns, where it is clearly visible because they are so upright.
For northern gardeners, another advantage of growing members of the Polystichum family of ferns is that they are evergreen. For me, that means this fern will look good until it gets flattened by the first big snowstorm. In the spring, when the snow melts, I can see the old fronds smushed on the ground so I never have to worry about planting something on top of one of them — the way I did with another fern last spring!