Fall Friends For Ferns?
Everybody knows that ferns can make good companions for spring ephemerals, like Virginia Bluebells (Mertensia virginica).
But what about in late summer, when some ferns can turn out to be somewhat ephemeral themselves? For example, there are some tallish ferns (2 to 3 feet) in the border along our south-facing back porch. Sorry, but I don’t know the species.
But that doesn’t matter now. What matters is that at some point in August these ferns tend to look pretty shabby and threadbare. I’ve been trying to find a plant that will fill in and look fresh as the ferns decay. That’s why I planted Mistflower (Conoclinium coelestinum) in this border back in May.
(Taxonomic note: Mistflower used to be Eupatorium coelestinum, in the same genus with Joe Pye Weeds. But then the taxonomists, pursuant to their powers under the Taxonomist Full Employment Act, broke up the Eupatoriums. They turned Joe Pye Weeds into Eutrochiums and Mistflower into Conoclinium, and Lord knows what else.)
As of right now, I can only find two of the five Mistflowers I planted, one of them pictured above. Though it’s possible that one or more or hiding under the ratty fern fronds.
This is my second try with Mistflowers. It likes moisture and part shade, and during my first try I put it somewhere that was just too dry during the summer. The bed by the back porch gets plenty of moisture though, in part because of a downspout and also because that’s where we keep the fountain/birdbath.
Mistflower has blue flowers that look like annual Ageratum (Ageratum houstonianum), grows 1 to 3 feet tall, and blooms starting in late August or September. The question is, can it coexist with ferns, or will the ferns shade them out while the Mistflower are emerging and the Ferns are full and lush? I guess time will tell.
Do you grow any plants that succeed ferns when they get tired in autumn?