Paul Ingleton reports on the Fern Workshop held in November 2018 with Jude Lawton.
Jude began with an explanation of the various structural parts of ferns, which are rather different from the usual flowering plants. Those paying attention like good students, will now be familiar with parts of a frond such as ‘petiole’, ‘pinna’, ‘pinnule’, ‘rachis’, ‘sorus’, etc. I’m not a good student so can’t remember everything here but I got the gist of it. She also emphasised how tough and unfussy the hardy ferns are as garden plants. There are even some ferns (cheilanthes) that, in the wild, grow at up to 15,000ft. in the Andes and can germinate their spores in as little as three weeks.
Jude then went on to the fascinating sex life of ferns, detailing how the reproduction from the spores after being released from the sporangia (just showing off) happens. This was amazing and made totally absorbing by a short video Jude had found, produced by the University of New Zealand. One could see why germination in some ferns takes so long! You can find this video on YouTube and I would recommend a viewing to anyone, pteridontaholic or not. Here’s a link.
Next up, for the grand finale, was the hands-on bit. Jude showed us how to deal with a pot-bound fern in a terrifyingly ruthless way. One member was overheard to say it was worth coming just to see this. The said fern was de-potted and the bottom inch or so of the root-ball amputated with a bread knife, while the projecting top section (the bit where the top inch of the pot sticks out) was hacked off with a large pair of scissors. Finally, the remaining root ball was roughed up before being repotted in gritty compost. We were then let loose on some plants that Jude had brought with her, making sure we knew where divisions could be made and then getting stuck in with a knife to cut the rhizome apart. We were like bees around a honeypot now, because we were invited to take away any bits that we wanted. We all left with a bag full of souvenirs which, hopefully, will be gracing our gardens in years to come.