Christopher Lloyd, the world's greatest ever garden writer who died in 2006, asked me at our first meeting many years ago whether I was interested in ferns. Not really, I replied. "You will be," he pronounced. And so it came to pass; I now grow dozens of species. Over time, you not only appreciate their subtle beauties of form and texture but also their trouble-free nature and ability to grow in shady places where few other plants will thrive.

Among the loveliest groups are the maidenhair ferns, and among these I would single out Adiantum aleuticum 'Japonicum', whose fronds are an arresting coppery-pink when they emerge in spring before turning green. Of fairly short stature, it is easily grown in soil that does not dry out too much and is not overly gloomy. Z3.

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