Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Wretched Excess and Bramble Ferns

An acquaintance of mine from college days (about 200 years ago), always subscribed to Queen Victoria's idea that "nothing succeeds like wretched excess" In fact, Travis believed this so much that he later developed a very successful party business from that notion. I think the older I get, the more I'm agreeing with him, particularly with reference to the wooded garden area behind my house. This is the same area that Frank regularly looks at and remarks, "What a great place for a swimming pool!"

Since I'm never going to clean a swimming pool, and only mow our little section of lawn because it was already there when we bought the place, the area behind the house is slowly becoming known as the wooded garden. I've cleared out many of the really nasty trees that were threatening to fall down anyway, and I've slowly been adding more things in. Most casual observers would probably call that part of my garden messy, but that's because I'm the only one who knows where the baby treasures are lurking!

At this moment it is raining and gray, but the forsythia is blooming its heart out at the base of the ancient sweetgum tree. Across the yard, the native azalea is getting ready to open soon, the witchhazel is covered with lemon yellow fringe, and the yellow twig dogwoods are positively glowing. I discovered the other day that one of them is the cultivar "Winter Flame (Cornus sanguinea 'Winter Flame'), but I can't tell Cricket, since she is wanting one!

So the point of all of this is that there are lots of great things in my back garden, and their ambundance is adding to my need for STRUCTURE this year. I've had some success controlling myself in the front garden, so now I'm trying to do the same in the back. That's where the Bramble Ferns (Hypolepsis grandulifera) come in! Last night at the GPPA meeting, I picked up twelve of these babies, and can't wait to put them into the ground and watch them take off!

If you're not familiar with Bramble Ferns, go to the website,, and check them out! They'll grow up to five feet tall, spread themselves out, and just fill huge spaces with their fluffy green fronds. I'm hoping that it's going to create a consistent backdrop for some of the specimens in the wooded area....if not, it's going to be my own little version of invasive bamboo!

I'm already excited to discover that they prefer ditches and I don't have to fill in that old ditch in the back! I'm going to call it my "ravine garden"


  1. I'm not familiar with them but I love the idea of a woodland garden. I have one final area that I'm working on and I wanted a woodland retreat there but the soil is very dry and most woodland plants like moist conditions. I'm back to square one.

  2. You are in luck, because Eleanor Craig of Fern Ridge Farms, is in the process of moving her entire operation to north Alabama. She knows more than anyone I know about ferns, and can definitely find you something that will do well in dry shade. Give her a call, and see about her schedule. At this point she splits her time between Atlanta and Alabama; I'm sure she'd like the connection to a serious gardener or two in your area.

  3. Hi Tim,

    I found your blog via Dave's (

    Good luck with your woodland garden. Sounds like what I have here. I've been wanting to do something more with "my" little section of woods too. Perhaps I'll keep up with your progress. ;~)