Happy to have them

Only one of four sweetferns (Comptonia peregrina) planted this spring has survived. Initially, two were delivered in very questionable condition, and one of the two replacements on the follow up delivery was a bit shaky (now dead, so very shaky). Sweetfern is reputed to be difficult to transplant, so I’m overjoyed with the one that survives, and hold no ill will toward the supplier who is one of few to offer this uncommon, fern-like shrub.

While I am quite happy to have sweetfern in the garden, I am certain that no visitor will ever inquire about its identity, and why should they? There’s nothing remarkable about it, but strolling the native garden at the U.S. Botanic Garden with my wife last year, sweetfern caught my eye (not hers), for whatever reason. And once that’s done, I must have a few, or at least one, and after this spring’s difficulties there’s little question that I’ll have just one.

I am also pleased with the abundance of jack-in-the-pulpit seedlings (Arisaema triphyllum, above), that could never be too many, and if one grows where it’s not wanted it is easily plucked out. A similar perennial, pinellia (Pinellia tripartia, below) can quickly become weedy in gardens, though here it is hemmed in by woody trees and shrubs, and by shallow roots and dry shade so that it seems quite tame. While it might seem there is an art to successfully growing so many plants, it is often blind luck that prevents some that are aggressive from taking over.

I see more sporelings (seedlings of ferns) of the Japanese Painted fern (Athyrium niponicum, below) coming up, with another growing on a thin layer of moss on a stone in the constructed creek (in contrast to a natural creek twenty-five feet into the forest). Painted and Cinnamon ferns (Osmunda cinnamomea) are most likely in this garden to spread by spores, and I’m quite certain Ostrich ferns (Matteuccia struthiopteris) would cover the entire acre of garden if rhizomes are not pulled. In any case, the Painted ferns are rarely a problem, and never do they overwhelm a neighbor. At this point, I have no idea which one or few were planted long ago, but all are welcomed.

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3 Comments Add yours

  1. Linus says:

    Where’d you by the sweetfern from? And are they like Daphne in that they transplant better when small/young?

    1. Dave says:

      I purchased Comptonia through Gossler Farms in Oregon. They list it as a one gallon container, and their practice is to strip most of the soil mix for shipping, which is great in most circumstances. Though the plant was good size for a one gallon, the roots were small, and I suspect it is a plant that grows vigorously with little root system. I think if I was buying this in a garden center I would prefer a plant with a full pot of roots, which would better assure survival. But, I went into this knowing the reputation for difficult transplanting, so I’m happy to have one nice, full plant.

      I think many daphnes are just finicky, transplanting and in general. Several grow vigorously here, and I hesitate to plant others any other place than in the exact conditions where these have been successful.

  2. tonytomeo says:

    Foliage of Comptonia peregrina resembles that of Lyonothamnus floribundus ‘Asplenifolius’.

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