Distance Learning Fern Course
- Learn to identify and grow hundreds of different ferns
- Study program for nurserymen, gardeners, landscapers etc; or for the amateur enthusiast exploring their passion for ferns.
Emphasis is placed on the horticulturally valuable species. The content of each of the eight lessons is as outlined below:
Review of the system of plant identification, general characteristics of the ferns (especially the fronds), main groups of ferns (filmy, tree, terrestrial, epiphytic and water ferns), information contacts (ie: nurseries, seed, clubs, etc.), pronunciation of plant names.
How best to grow ferns and what conditions do they need. Planting, mulching, watering, pest & disease and their control, feeding, pruning, protection from wind, salt air, etc., compost making.
Methods of propagating ferns - spores, division, tissue culture. Propagation of selected varieties.
- The Most Commonly Grown Varieties.
Maidenhairs, tree ferns, stags, elks, common ground ferns. How to grow and propagate these ferns.
- Other Important Groups.
Asplenium, Blechnum, Nephrolepis, Pteris and other groups. Group characteristics, cultural details, propagation methods.
- Other Varieties
Hares foot fern, Bracken, Fans, Corals and Combs.
- Making the best use of these Plants.
In containers, hanging baskets, terrariums, in the ground, as indoor plants, growing and showing, growing for profit (to sell the plants or what they produce).
- Special Assignmentt - Detailed culture and identification of one genera.
- Distinguish between different types of ferns in cultivation, including twenty different genera and fifty different varieties.
- Determine critical cultural practices required to successfully grow ferns in different specified situations.
- Determine the cultural requirements of specific fern varieties.
- Apply various specialised techniques to the culture of ferns.
- Prepare a planting plan for an area using ferns.
WHAT WILL YOU COVER?
During this course, you will do the following:
- Label the morphological parts of a typical fern, including:
- bipinnatifid fronds
- Distinguish species of each type, between aquatic, epiphytic and terrestrial ferns.
- Distinguish, using illustrations, between different fern families, including;
- Compile a resource information guide on ferns, including scope of operation and contact information (ie: address, phone, fax), for:
- ten nurseries
- five clubs/societies
- ten product suppliers
- other organisations
- Prepare a collection of fifty ferns, not collected elsewhere, including:
- a photo, drawing or pressed specimen *plant names (scientific and common)
- cultural details
- Develop guidelines for growing ferns either indoors, in containers under shade, or in the ground.
- Label a sequence of four drawings which illustrate the propagation of ferns by spore.
- List different fern genera that can be propagated by division.
- Propagate four fern species, using two different methods, including spores and division.
- Explain the planting requirements of ferns.
- List the preferred characteristics of a soil which is to grow ferns in the your locality.
- Prepare a potting media mix suitable for growing ferns in.
- Develop guidelines for watering a typical fernery in your locality for a twelve month period.
- Write a summary of nutrition requirements of ferns, including fertiliser recommendations.
- Explain different common health problems of ferns.
- List guidelines for pruning ferns in your locality.
- Write a set of guidelines for the culture of a selected fern genus, including details on:
- distinguishing between different species
- cultural requirements
- Prepare a table which compares twenty-five different commonly grown fern genera, and includes:
- plant description
- preferred habitat
- growing requirements
- List methods used to propagate different ferns, including four different propagation methods.
- Write an essay comparing different species of ferns in the one genera, with reference to physical appearance, growth habit and cultural requirements.
- Describe endemic growing conditions of five different native ferns sited in natural areas.
- Prepare a schedule of cultural tasks to be undertaken over a twelve month period which are highly specific to one nominated species of fern.
- Summarise, a procedure for maintenance over a twelve month period, of a Nephrolepis grown in hanging baskets, including comments on:
- pest control
- potting up
- List ten fern species, from at least five different genera, which are particularly suited to growing in hanging baskets in your locality.
- Compare the suitability of different types of hanging baskets for growing ferns, including:
- water wells
- lined wire baskets
- Explain how to make a terrarium for growing five different types of ferns.
- List twenty fern species which grow in very wet conditions, including aquatic plants and bog plants.
- Distinguish between the cultural requirements of ferns grown indoors and outdoors.
- Explain the cultural techniques which are unique to growing ferns as an epiphyte. Grow a fern using a specialised technique (eg. in a terrarium or hanging basket), monitoring it over 3 months (ie. recording cultural practices, changes in health, and performance).
- Write guidelines for preparation of a potted fern for competition in a garden show.
- Evaluate the use of ferns in a garden, which incorporates both ferns and flowering plants, using a supplied checklist of design criteria.
- Evaluate the use of ferns in a garden or interior plantscape, which is either all or predominantly ferns, using a supplied checklist of design criteria.
- Design a fern garden bed of 30 square meters, which incorporates at least ten different fern varieties, and satisfies both aesthetic and cultural requirements of a specified site, which you survey.
Tips for Growing Ferns
- Provide protection from direct sun and wind. Plant beside a wall or fence, or under shade to avoid direct sun at any time of day.
- Keep moist on hot or windy days
- Use a high organic soil, mixing lots of compost or mulch into clays or sands before planting.
- Mulch the soil to reduce drying out.
- Frequent watering (several times each day) may be necessary for best results; with even the hardier varieties.
- Common problems are aphis, scale, mealy bug, white fly, slugs & snails, leafhoppers and caterpillars.
Pruning and Thinning Ferns
Prune ferns for the following reasons:
- To remove diseased, damaged or dead growth; helping improve appearances, and reducing chances of pests/diseases spreading.
- To encourage new healthier growth. When old, damaged fronds are removed the fern can experience a flush of new growth.
- To control the plant size.
Thinning is undertaken to control excessive growth. Clump forming ferns (eg. Fishbone) can over time form thick almost impenetrable tangles of foliage and roots. This can seriously reduce water penetration into the soil and result in serious nutrient depletion. Often this problem can be overcome by simply thinning out the clump. In severe cases the whole clump may need to be dug and the soil improved before replanting with smaller segments from the former clump. Excess segments of the clump can be composted or planted elsewhere.
AN INTRODUCTION TO FERN TYPES
There is disagreement amongst experts with respect to many classifications of ferns. In many cases, there is no right and wrong, there is only differing opinions. As long as there are good reasons behind each opinion, it is at this stage valid to use it.
For simplicity ferns can be divided into five main types; Filmy ferns, Tree Ferns, Epiphytic Ferns, Ground Ferns and Water Ferns.
These are tiny delicate ferns with very thin fronds only one cell thick. They grow only in wet or humid, misty areas. They are not as commonly grown and are often more difficult to grow than other groups of ferns. Examples of filmy ferns are Hymenophyllum sp., Cephalomanes sp., Pleuromanes.sp, and Trichomanes sp.
These are ferns with woody trunks, sometimes several metres tall topped by a crown of long (up to 2 or more metres) divided fronds. In their natural habitats the trunks are often covered by epiphytic ferns and orchids.
Treeferns must be kept moist by watering with a slowly dripping hose in the
crown of the plant. Plants are best kept saturated for the first 2-3 years.
CYATHEA Rough Tree Fern
Most Cyatheas are hardy and come from warm climates, although a few (eg. C australis) can be grown in cooler climates. Some experts call many different tree ferns Cyathea. Others split Cyathea into several different groups (ie. genera). They are readily propagated from spores. Fronds are very large and are 2 to 3 pinnate.
DICKSONIA Soft Tree Ferns
Dicksonia are hardy to very hardy and are generally found in mountain areas with warm climates, although some are widespread in cooler climates. There are approximately 30 species ( 2 Australian). Medium to fast growers, they have attractive long, lance shaped fronds, the bases of which have stiff hairs. Dicksonia need moist soil. Shade is necessary in warmer climates. D. antartica is widely grown in the Australian eastern states as a feature plant, and will do well in a cool spot in the sub tropics. It is also grown widely in the UK and other places.
TERRESTIAL OR GROUND FERNS
This group of ferns comprises a large variety of generally small to medium sized ferns that generally grow directly in soil, but do not have the obvious trunks like tree ferns. Many of widely grown ferns are found in this group. (eg. Adiantum, Blechnum, Asplenium, Nephrolepis, Cyrtomium, Pellaea, and Polystichum). Some of the ground ferns can spread readily (e.g. by rhizomes) forming extensive colonies, for example Histiopteris incisa (Batswing Fern), and Pteris sp. This group also includes the scrambling type ferns that will often form large tangled masses along the edge of water courses such as Gleichenia sp. (Coral Ferns). Many ground ferns make excellent pot plants.
ADIANTUM Maidenhair Ferns
Maidenhair generally prefer moist conditions in sunny or semi-shaded positions. Many are fairly hardy, and grow rapidly in ideal conditions. There are over 200 species of generally spreading or small clumping ferns, mainly from tropical and temperate climates. The fronds are generally thin, delicate, simple or divided into fan shaped pinnules from small up to 1m long, black or brown leaf stalks. There are a large number of attractive cultivars available.
Tropical species require a temperature of at least 16 to 19 degrees C. and a humid environment. Most need frequent watering over summer but little water over winter. Some are very heavy feeders, most respond well to regular small doses of fertiliser. Potting mixes should be well drained, and it's pH should not drop too low. Spores germinate best at a pH between 7 and 8.5
Spleenworts are generally clump forming, and of varied size. There are over 700 species from greatly varied habitats. They can be epiphytes, terrestrial or rock dwellers. Most are reasonably hardy to very hardy, and generally fast growing. They are generally very adaptable ferns, but avoid placing under glass in direct sunlight. Excess moisture can cause yellowing in periods of slow growth. Frond shape can vary according to growing conditions, but is usually simple deeply cut or compound fronds. Spleenworts are mainly propagated by spore (but spore must be fresh), a few are propagated by division and some can be propagated from bulbils.
NEPHROLEPIS Sword Fern/Fishbone
Nephrolepis are very hardy, tuft forming plants which spread by creeping rhizomes. They are fast growing and very adaptable, with approximately 30 species (6 Australian) from the tropics and sub-tropics, usually in dry open forests or on the edge of rainforests. Small to medium, mainly terrestrial ferns, they need lots of water in warmer months. (NB: too much water in a greenhouse can cause rotting). They are very drought tolerant. Most are sensitive to severe frost or cold. They will survive better in a pot bound state than many other ferns and make excellent indoor and hanging basket plants. There are many cultivars available. Propagate by division or spores.
PTERIS Brake/Dish Fern/Table Fern
With approximately 280 species of mainly tropical ferns, Pteris will grow in a range of habitats from dry to wet and full shade to sunny. They are terrestrial, clump forming, generally hardy and adaptable to different situations. They can be fast growing, but need lots of water while growing. Roots will die if they dry out, and they should not be allowed to become pot bound. Some dislike direct or hot sun. Temperate climate species tolerate cold, others are cold sensitive. Normally spore propagated, some can be divided.
These grow usually attached to another plant, on fallen logs and tree stumps, on rocks, or in dead or decomposing organic matter on the ground.
They gain their nutrition from leaf litter, dead insects and other rotting organic material. Commonly grown epiphytic ferns include Platycerium bifurcatum (Elkhorn Fern), Platycerium grande (Staghorn Fern), Davallia sp.(Hairsfoot Ferns) and Microsorium sp. Some ferns can be grown as either an epiphyte or in the ground (eg. Asplenium nidus Birdsnest Fern)
DAVALLIA Hare's Foot/Rabbit's Foot
These small creeping ferns are hardy and ideal for hanging baskets. Approximately 40 species (3 Australian) from mainly tropical & sub tropical, Europe, Asia & Pacific are available. One is native to Victoria. They are mainly epiphytic, some are rock ferns, and all have long scale covered rhizomes. Preferring temperatures between 16 19 degrees C, only a few species are frost hardy. They need heavy watering while growing, but greatly reduced watering over winter. Aphis and scale are sometimes a problem. Propagate by spores, division or rhizome cuttings.
Spreading, often drooping epiphytic ferns from mainly tropical and sub tropical areas, Platycerium prefer a warm climate, although P. bifurcatum and P. superbum are hardy as far south as Melbourne. There are two types of fronds, firstly the flattish, infertile shield frond from which rise the second type, the fertile fronds which are often long, pendulous, and deeply lobed. All fronds need protection from frost (some won't tolerate temperatures below 15 degrees C.). In cool climates, keep the plants dry over winter. Propagate easily by division (except P. superbum). Spore germinates easily but is difficult to keep growing.
P. bifurcatum (The Elkorn Fern) Strap like fronds with a Y shaped tip, up to 1m in length.
P. superbum (syn. P.grande) (The Staghorn Fern) broad lobed fronds grow from a
green sheath of infertile fronds which cover roots.
There are two types of water ferns:
* Floating ferns these are ferns that float on the water surface with their roots immersed in the water. The most commonly cultivated type are the Azolla sp.
* Anchored ferns these ferns have part of their growth (ie. roots) anchored in soil or decomposing matter at the bottom of the water body they are growing in. The fronds will in some cases reach up and float on the water surface or may grow completely submerged. Cultivated types include Marsilea sp and Pilulara sp.
ENROL AND LEARN MORE
ACS operates a student bookshop that supplies a range of horticulture texts to supplement our courses.
Many are written by the principal (well known gardening author John Mason), or other staff. All have been reviewed and approved by our academic experts (to be accurate and relevant to students studying our horticulture courses).
- Student discounts are available to anyone studying with ACS Distance Education.
- Both printed books and ebooks (as downloads) available
GROWING FERNS by John Mason (publisher: Kangaroo Press) Printed book
TROPICAL and WARM CLIMATE GARDENING by John Mason (publisher Bay Books) Printed Book
ORCHIDS: A BEGINNERS GUIDE by John Mason (publisher: Highland House) Printed Book
GROWING AUSTRALIAN NATIVES 2nd edition Printed Book
GARDEN DESIGN Part I by John Mason (publisher ACS) EBook
- Click on above link for info
- Sample pages available to download for all ebook
- E Books can be purchased online for immediate download (Can be read on a computer, ipad, iphone, lap top, most book readers or similar devices).
- GO TO www.acsbookshop.com for more titles