Shrubs, hedges and ferns

  • ”The Complete Book of Ferns” by Mobee Weinstein. Contributed photo

  • “Shrubs & Hedges: Discover, Grow and Care for the World’s Most Popular Plants” by Eva Monheim. Contributed photo

Published: 2/22/2020 6:00:18 AM

Two books came to me recently: “Shrubs & Hedges” and “The Complete Book of Ferns.” Their delivery was in good timing for me because all the season’s recent mild weather has sent me daydreaming and planning spring projects. A garden is never done. There are always changes to be made because of mistakes or because we just really need something different.

“Shrubs & Hedges: Discover, Grow and Care for the World’s Most Popular Plants” by Eva Monheim (Cool Springs Press, $30) is a great book. My appreciation is easy to understand. Now that I am in my more mature years, I welcome plants that take less work. In addition, when we moved to town, my husband swore he would never mow a lawn ever again. In the spring and summer of 2015, we planted our first trees and shrubs and began working on our new grass-less (mostly) garden. We have been blissfully happy ever since.

“Shrubs & Hedges” is a comprehensive book with advice about every aspect of designing, planting, pruning, rejuvenating, and propagation. There are many color photographs of different shrubs and ways they can be used. In addition, there are plant lists complete with information about names, cold tolerance, size, season interest, sun or shade, color and bloom form. The chapter on classic and rising star shrubs provides more information about both familiar and new plants.

A chapter on pruning was particularly helpful to me because I am always timid about pruning. Drawings of different plants and the pruning techniques they require are very helpful. As are the drawings overlaid on real trees to illustrate common problems about where to trim and prune. Some pruning techniques will create an espalier.

The photographs and drawings are excellent and will make different tasks easier to act on.

Monheim has thought of every aspect of working with shrubs, choosing shrubs for hedges, attracting wildlife into the garden including pollinators, and choosing shrubs for rain gardens, hillsides, and riversides.

She has been teaching horticulture for over 30 years with numerous specialties. Currently, she teaches at Longwood Gardens for the Professional Horticulture Program. I am a gardener with a wet garden, desirous of making it welcoming to all creatures and this book has really fired me up to do more and better — with her advice.

We, gardeners, tend to have specialties. This is not to say we don’t have variety in our gardens, but we might have a lot of hydrangeas, or a lot of roses, or a lot of tomatoes. The “Complete Book of Ferns” by Mobee Weinstein will encourage any gardener to add some of the many varieties of ferns to their gardens, or even indoors.

Weinstein begins with the different types of fern from terrestrial ferns, those living in the ground; aquatic, those living in water; epiphytic, those living on tree branches; and epipetric and lithophytice which grow on the surfaces of rocks. Ferns on rocks. Amazing. That is just the beginning of information about the evolution of ferns, a fascinating section on fern botany that includes how to work with ferns.

Then, there are three chapters on growing ferns indoors, growing ferns outdoors, and finally, do-it-yourself crafting with ferns. Weinstein is clear and articulate in every section.

I did plant some ferns in my new garden. I lost my plant list but I am pretty sure the ferns I planted in one of the wettest parts of my garden are Lady ferns (Athyrium filix-femina). According to the book, Lady ferns are very adaptable and can tolerate a very wet spot and full shade. My ferns have survived, and thrived, in my very wet and shady garden. I bought a couple of Maidenhair ferns at Nasami but they did not survive winter in my wet garden. I will remember that the various Maidenhair ferns are more delicate.

This book includes beautiful photographs of ferns I have never seen. I’m surprised at how different some of the fern foliage is. The tropical Tongue fern has long single-strap fronds, Japanese Painted fern has silvery fronds and deep red stems, and the Southern Maidenhair fern has delicate leaflets on black stems. Some of the fern names are descriptive. There is Japanese Bird’s Nest Fern, Squirrel Foot Fern, Caterpillar Fern and many others.

One fern I know by name is the Equisetum hyemale. Equisetum grew by our roadside in Heath; I knew it as horsetail. Another name is scouring rush because of its high silica content. I did not use it for scouring, but I liked knowing it was a living fossil that originated about 350 million years ago.

Weinstein’s final section on crafting with ferns is inspiring. There are many ways to make fern terrariums; planting ferns in a vertical garden; building dish gardens, tabletop gardens and many other ways of using ferns in the house. For those who are artistic, there are directions for making and framing fern prints.

Mobee Weinstein knows her stuff. She is the Foreman of Gardeners for Outdoor Gardens at the New York Botanical Garden, as well as a frequent lecturer.

Pat Leuchtman has been writing and gardening since 1980. Readers can leave comments at her website:


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