Anita Morton - Growing Gardens

Fern frolics

One plant group that has thoroughly enjoyed our mild, wet summer this year is the ferns. These ancient and primitive plants have revelled in the conditions and baby ferns have popped up in the most inconvenient places.

Small growing ferns are quite easy to move. Their roots are fibrous and hold together well. Just take a reasonably large root ball when you remove them, and keep the plant moist in its new location. Obviously, that new spot needs to be fern-friendly (light to deep shade and constantly humid). Tree ferns, especially those that have grown too large for their site, are a bit more problematic.

We have two common types of tree fern, the Cyathea or rough tree fern, and the Dicksonia or soft tree fern. The former is not really suitable for garden use, as its leaf stalks are armed with sharp prickles and are uncomfortable to brush past. Most people will have Dicksonias. These plants are famously able to regenerate from a cut trunk, and you will often see them stacked up in a nursery.

These ferns are generally harvested from Tasmanian forests that are about to be clear-felled. They are thicker through the trunk than our local plants, have grown much more slowly and produce a fine crown of fronds. Just make sure the plant you buy has a tag showing it was legally harvested. Plant at least one-third deep and keep the trunk constantly moist and sheltered until the new growth is well away.

Smaller Dicksonias pop up in moist areas of the garden if you have adult plants producing spores. These little plants are as easy to transplant as small fern species. Just take a good root ball. If you have too many baby ferns, pot them up for sale at school fetes, they are always good sellers.


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