11 Feb 2011

Athyrium ‘Regal Red’ and Ursula’s Red

My love affair with ferns continues to grow with each passing season. Last year it was all about Victoriae and Dre’s Daggars, two very similar looking ferns whose fronds criss cross in a unique lattice-like pattern.

This year I’m venturing back to the gebus Athyrium, and more specifically, the species niponicum – also known as the Japanese Painted Fern. I remember when A.n var '’Pictum’ first hit the market you couldn’t source one come hell or high water, and for me that was okay as I’m not a keener for the latest trends. It looked altogether far too ornamental to be included in my woodland garden. I would happily stick to Adiantum, Dryopteris and Polystichum, and leave these new fangled silver phantoms for someone more daring! Of course that was then, this is now. 

Athyrium niponicum ‘Regal Red’ is a most handsome and ruffled selection, and with its high colour selection, is a much requested selection. The dark violet-red interior of each ‘Regal Red’ frond is contrasted by bright silver edges making each leaflet distinct and creating an overall tapestry effect. The pinnules also twist a little, giving the frond a ‘fluffed up’ appearance. ‘Regal Red’ combines beautifully with Heuchera ‘Plum Pudding’ and blue sedges such as Carex ‘Blue Zinger.’ 20-25cm in height by 25-30cm wide, this beauty is hardy to Zones 3-8. It prefers well draining, organic rich soil in full to part shade. 

Athyrium niponicum ‘Ursula’s Red’ defies description! So many people have asked, is it really that dark? The answer is YES, but comes only after three or so years in the garden. For the first two or three years, it looks and acts like most other ‘Japanese painted ferns.’ The near black flush of deep purple down the centre of each frond is truly a mesmerizing sight to behold. My only concern was the fact that along a shaded woodland path, it might ‘lose’ itself with its dark coloration. The remedy was to ensure that it was planted amongst other plants with a brighter green foliage. Bred by Ursula Hertz out of South Carolina, this stunner is guaranteed to provide years of pleasure and conversation….. just remember, to get its trademark startling effect, you have to exercise a bit of patience! Also hardy to Zones 3-8, this one also enjoys rich, organic infused soil in part shade.
Coming to LittleTree Spring 2011 


jodi (bloomingwriter) said...

As always, a splendid post, Barry. I too have been slow to come to the painted ferns, but I have several now...and I think I will need 'Ursula's Red' especially. I like my crested one, 'Pictum Applecourt' I think it's called--but it's late and I'm too lazy to go look it up.

Is the Wiz said...

Thank you Barry, I've wondered about these for a while so it's very useful to read a first-hand account rather than a sales blurb.

Anonymous said...

My friend Carol was able to propagate one species of Athyrium and now I have a plant. I've got it situated with 'Green Spice' Heuchera to good effect, if I do say so myself. :)

Barry Parker said...

Hi Barry,

I wondered why 'Ursula's Red' didn't live up to it's reputation. I now know that I just have to wait. I think I've had my plant for at least two years, so I hope it will put on the brilliant show you record in your picture, very soon. Thanks for this.