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Re: Adiantum lovers

How could ~any fern be boring ? ::smiles:: I cannot grow tropicals in our old, 
chilly, Oregon farmhouse. However I enjoy learning about any fern! 

Maidenhairs are a more subtle ferns to harvest spore from. Because it is tricky 
to see ripening spore under the delicate indusium flap, it has taken me some 
time to observe and learn how to "catch" spore. As the spore ripens, the flap 
does become more transparent, so that you can see the spore cases better. 

On the other hand, most maidenhairs are very easy to ~grow from spore. I have 
tried "every method in the book", but my favorite is to sow spore on damp, very 
fine (70 mesh), quartz sand. This "silica sand" is available from builder's and 
construction supply houses. A hundred pound sack is well under US $10. It is 
used for testing mechanical properties of soil. It is also available in smaller 
quantities at craft stores. As with any spore, you need damp, yet relatively 
sterile conditions. A custard cup allows some depth for water below, without 
drowning-wet conditions on top. Very fine sand makes handling wee babies really 

I grow fernlets on in a sand-soil mix (in clear plastic pastry boxes) for a 
time before potting on. Peat pellets in a clean environment such as a pastry 
box are another reliable method for growing from spore. Soak the pellets in 
boiling water, then place in a clear container until cool. Because peat has a 
tendency to clump, I slightly favor the use of sand. 

What I am wondering is if the various A. raddianum cultivars come true from 
spore. My  limited experience is that they do not.  I have grown A. r. 
'Gracillimum' from my exquisite parent plant and most of the youngsters don't 
quite have its delicacy and grace. 

A few A. raddianum cultivars are available here locally. 'Pacific Maid' is one 
of the hardiest, but still requires winter protection. 'Fritz Luthey' is 
slightly less so, but will survive. Unless the soil actually freezes to the 
depth of their roots, both will come back in the spring. 

My favorite maidenhair is  A. aleuticum 'Subpumillum'. It keeps its character 
when grown from spore, but is not one-hundred percent true either. Close behind 
on my faves list is rosy maidenhair,  A. hispidulum. The latter also needs 
protection from hard frost. 

Many maidenhairs want some real mineral soil. They need even just a bit of clay 
and loam. Soiless potting mixes are terrific for preventing compaction when 
growing in pots. However, to enjoy real longevity in many pot-grown ferns, they 
should contain some amount of real mineral soil. If you wish to grow 
maidenhairs in a greenhouse, many require cool conditions. Even those native to 
lower latitudes often enjoy cool soil. Evaporative cooling suits them 
especially well.

In "Ferns for American Gardens" John Mickel tells a wonderful story about the 
adaptable nature of Himalayan maidenhair, A. venusutm. Here in western Oregon 
this is an excellent choice for those who want the lacy, lovely, maidenhair-
look in ordinary garden conditions. One of my very large patches even gets a 
few hours of sun here and only occasional water during our summer drought. 
Although I have over a hundred kinds of ferns, I am never a garden or plant 
snob. Easy, yet beautiful, plants get lots of respect here! 

This summer, I was so swamped with work that I had to stop all my garden mail. 
We are still very busy, but there is ~always time for ferns and penstemons.

If you ever visit Oregon, try to stop at Multnomah Falls, east of Portland on 
Interstate 80. The maidenhairs draped over damp, mossy, black cliffs of basalt 
are splendid. The sight reminds us that many ferns are essentially rock plants!

Cheers, Louise
Corvallis, ORegon, Pacific Northwest US
cool mediterranean

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