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Some Jurassic Park in your Garden

by Malachy - Horticulturist CountryLife Dungarvan | Aug 24, 2015
These plants are some of the oldest plants on the planet.

While many gardeners would not like a Tyrannosaurus Rex or Brachiosaurus walking around their garden, many would like some lush Jurassic Park style plants to grow in their gardens. Luckily it is not as difficult to get a Jurassic feeling in your flowerbeds as you would expect it to be.

One particularly good plant to consider is Dicksonia or as they are more commonly called Tree Ferns. These plants are some of the oldest plants on the planet with many records dating back millions and millions of years to a time when dinosaurs would have roamed the land and not just have been found in museums or in motion pictures.

Since the Victorian times tree ferns have been popular with gardeners because of their tropical and unusual looks. In more recent times they have gone through a revival in Ireland and have become very popular once again with more and more gardeners looking to grow them.

At the moment in the CountryLife Dungarvan Garden Centre we have a fantastic display of them which bring me back to a time when I was traveling around Australia. On the trip I drove by stacks and stacks of tree fern trunks at the side of roads where farmers would have been clearing fields for agricultural use.

These particular trunks were on their way to garden centres and nurseries to be sold as they all had small metal plaques on them. Finding these plaques is a good indication that the tree fern you are about to buy has been sourced correctly. 

Larger tree ferns can be an investment as the taller the trunk the more you will pay for the plant. For gardeners on more of a budget, younger ones can be bought and once cared for they will mature and reach a good size in time. Plant lovers will often prefer this option as they can watch the plant mature and develop over time.

Contrary to what you may think Tree ferns don't need a rich or deep soil. They will survive happily even in very poor or stony soil. Ideally a slightly acid soil (adding ericaceous compost will help) is preferable and a light dressing with blood and bone meal will give the plants plenty of food to start them off. When it comes to feed a tree fern during the year at home I like to use a good quality seaweed feed.

Tree ferns prefer to grow with some shade. They will adapt to a sunny position, but will need very regular watering and may suffer from sunburn to the fronds. So ideally you need to pick a spot in the garden with some shade during at least part of the day. Ferns also like a moist surrounding and tree ferns really need watering every day during the warmer months especially inside and down the trunk.

As we are fast approaching autumn attention will soon turn to protecting plants from colder temperatures. In my own garden we do not really experience extremely low temperatures so I tend to just wrap the leaves in and part of the trunk in old fern leaves (almost fashioned into a woven blanket). But if you are in a more exposed area which gets hit by very low temperatures or harsh frost you could look at using insulating fabric stuffed with straw to protect the crown of the plant.

While you may not think a tern fern is right for your garden you will be surprised how versatile they really can be in a garden design. I would recommend giving them a second look if you are looking for something with a lot of impact for your garden. 

Written by Malachy

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Malachy's Bio 

I have been gardening since I was 5 years old when my mother gave me a part of our garden as my own. I have studied horticulture in the National Botanical Gardens in Glasnevin and was a winner in the young horticulturist of the year competition. I have worked in Several plant nurseries and garden centers such as Mount Congreve in Co. Waterford. My special interests are plant propagation and Cacti!