Landscape Spotlight: Japanese Painted Fern, ‘Athyrium nipnicum var. pictum’

Posted September 28, 2017 in Blog, Plant and Tree

If you are a fan of Facebook, you have most likely seen the memes making their rounds that say things like, “In a world full of *insert a celebrity’s name here*, be a * insert the complete antithesis of that first celebrity here*.”  While we may not always understand who these people are or what makes those memes witty, we feel like the landscape design world should counter with their own memes.  The first version created should say, “In a world of monotonous green garden plantings, be a Japanese painted fern.”  Well, if that still doesn’t register, let us explain!

So much of the woodland garden is green, but only with subtle variations.  In a sea of nature’s goodness, there needs to be a contrast, a landscape unsung hero if you will.  This planting should be hardy, dependable, distinct yet charming…every attribute of the Japanese painted fern!

Native to Japan, this deciduous fern is anything but ordinary!  Coming to life within the landscape during mid-spring, its fronds seem to unravel overnight.  Growing with an arching habit of up to almost 2’ tall, its leaves are as graceful and as elegant as they come.  However, it’s organic rhythmic nature in the breeze is fundamentally surmounted by its beauty.  Noted for its unique meld of rich dark green and a pewter-like silver embellishment of each frond, each arm is bisected by a contrasting yet complimenting maroon-purple midrib.  The combination of ombré coloring and sheer distinctness give the illusion that this plant is hand-painted, hence its name.

This delightful design plant easily thrives in medium-moisture, well-drained soil and in partial to full shade.  This plant will grow in its own compact clumping form and when the colonies are happy, they will begin to get dense.  When the clumps seem too choked, you can simply divide them in the spring and transplant the extra to a new location to enjoy.

With its compact size, interesting texture and remarkable color, this plant has the full potential to flatter any landscape situation.  Pairing this fern with hard landscape features likes walkways, curbing and boulders provide a double-duty benefit.  The ferns excellently compliment garden hardscapes by offering a kind softness to the resolute, as the hardscapes offer extra color and textures to play off.  This juxtaposition seamlessly elevates the landscape without effort!

Are you ready for the ultimate NEPA advantage, the icing on the cake, the music to every gardener’s ears?  This beauty is rabbit and deer resistant, which is one of the most sought out characteristics of landscaping plants in Pennsylvania!  There is a saying that deer will eat anything if they are hungry enough, but we have yet to see any nibble marks or damage to these ferns in our landscape beds here at MasterPLAN.  As for garden pests or diseases, this plant contracts very few issues if any at all, making it a true “set it and forget it” landscape addition.  All you need to do is enjoy its beauty for years to come!

  • Searching for more outdoor inspiration to take your backyard from “nah,” to “yea!”?  Reach out to MasterPLAN Landscape Design!  As backyard transformation specialists, we love partnering with our clients and discovering the full potential of their properties for a true custom-fit for their family and their lifestyle.  Serving the Poconos and the Lehigh Valley, through the Main Line of Philadelphia and western New Jersey, we would love to sit down with you and unearth the possibilities for your outdoor living space!  When you are ready to chat, we are ready to listen.

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