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Wintergreen Ferns

Written by John James, posted on Thursday, January 24, 2019

Due to the age and nature of Christ Church's buildings there is a constant round of building work going on. This building work often conflicts with the gardens resulting in lawns having to be re-laid or borders dug up and replanted. Often this work, although vital, means we have to work on areas that are otherwise perfectly OK, but occasionally the work gives us the opportunity to revitalise a tired area.

One such area was a small border at the eastern end of the cathedral in a very shaded location. The border was a mass of plain Bergenia cordifolia which, whilst it did a good job of keeping weeds at bay, was really only beloved by the cathedral flower arrangers who used its leaves in their work. Having to remove the plants to allow scaffolding to be erected for work to the walls and windows gave us a chance to rethink the area. Being a largely shady, damp corner it was decided to mainly replant with ferns that retain their leaves through the winter months. The ferns are also joined by a couple of more interesting varieties of Bergenia for their foliage and flower effect and two varieties of Mahonia for some winter colour.

To encourage the ferns to thrive, leaf mould was incorporated into the soil, but no fertiliser was used as ferns are generally not hungry feeders. To add a little more interest silver birch logs (from trees felled for the visitor centre development) were used to divide up the different fern species.

A group of Hosta ‘Empress Wu’ which reportedly has the biggest leaves of any Hosta was also planted’ but is not right for the area as it leaves a bare patch over winter which looks odd, so this will soon be replaced by another wintergreen fern.

The following photos mainly show the plants as they were when newly planted in February 2018 and their current size 11 months later.