Ferns are an ancient group of non flowering plants, most of which prefer shady sites with adequate moisture. Their finely dissected fronds create delicate tracery that more than compensates for their lack of flowers. There are quite a few native varieties that were plundered by the Victorians in the wild during their fern craze. Numerous forms were identified and collected and some of those are still prized to this day. Ferns can be evergreen or deciduous and some of them will tolerate dry shade once they are established. Few grow well in sun unless the site is waterlogged. Some types such as the Royal Fern and the Sensitive Ferns require constant moisture thriving on streamside and bogs.
Combined with shade loving grasses and bamboos they can create restful compositions of green textures. Evergreen varieties forming shuttlecocks can provide winter interest in shade when the surrounding herbaceous growth has died down.
Deciduous varieties can be cleared away as they die back in winter whilst evergreens are best cut back in spring as soon as the new croziers and fronds begin unfurling. There are few pests and diseases affecting ferns.