Saturday, June 30

Dead tree fern?

I posted quite a while back that our tree fern had been killed during the winter on 2010/11. In spite of being shrouded in fleece the cold had really hammered it and all seemed to be lost.

We had a fern in a pot nearby that had chosen the tub in which the tree fern is growing as a nursery in which to raise its offspring.
Then around the 'back' of the tree fern stump I noticed more ferny growth that looked different. The young ferns were growing out of the stump and looked very much like tree fern fronds.
It seems that the tree fern stump is sprouting new growth so isn't actually dead. The top of the stump, however hasn't shown any signs of growth and doesn't actually look attractive so something needed to be done.

I decided to try to scoop out the core of the stump in order to use it as a planting pockets in which I could plant a fern that would pretend to be tree fern growth. Easier said than done. Armed with drill, chisel, scissors, secateurs in fact anything that came to hand I have cut, hammered and scooped for weeks to achive a hollow like this.
The aim was to scoop out a hollow large enough in which to plant an athyrium filix-femina bought especialy for this purpose. However, it became apparent that there was no way that I was going to scoop out a large enough hole to accommodate it. The fern would probably grow faster than I could achieve a suitable size of planting pocket.
A rethink was necessary and it just so happened that I had noticed more self sown ferns growing under a large shuttlecock type fern. Can you spot the youngster growing against the edging at the bottom of the photo below?
Here's a closer look. There were in fact several babies.
I reasoned that growing where they were probably would mean that they didn't have a particularly large root ball and also that they must be survivors that could cope with less (much less) than perfect conditions. The fern was also the right sort of shape so I dug one out.

I placed this in the tree fern hollow and it was a Cinderella moment - it fit! I filled around it with compost and topped with a few bark chipping to try to prevent the compost from washing away and voila!
The tree fern stump now has a brand new 'head of hair'. So will the fern survive in it's new home? - Who knows we'll just have to wait and see. Note to self - must remember to keep it watered.

Oh! and where shall I plant the athyrium filix-femina? - Another decision needed.


  1. It will be interesting to see if this works. I hope your tree fern survives though - it takes so long for them to get to that size it would be a shame if it died.

    1. We were gutted when it didn't shoot Liz. Every year we waited in suspense but every other year it came through - it was just the horrendous winter that it couldn't cope with

  2. So, a follicle-implant operation then...
    I suppose if anything is going to do well this year, it ought to be the ferns, since many of them like damp conditions.

    1. It always seemed very damp in the centre as I was working on hollowing it out, Mark so I'm hoping that it holds moisture.

  3. This looks really Cool Sue...a lot of hard work and ingenuity has definitely paid off here!!

    1. Just hope it lasts Tanya and the top fern grows in proportion so it looks right.

  4. A great idea. I hope it works out.

    1. I suppose the test of whether it was a good idea or not will depend on whether it works out in the end Jo.

  5. Hi Sue,
    Although you posted this 10 years ago, I'm wondering how it worked out long-term?
    I live in South Africa and about 6 months ago I moved 3 very large tree ferns (each 3 - 4m tall) to a new position in my garden. Eventually one has sprouted new fronds, but the other 2 appear to be dead. Their stems are beautiful and I'm thinking of scooping out their crowns and planting tree ferns in them, to fake it! I have some heavy duty tools to help me. Just wondering whether yours worked out long-term or not?
    Best wishes,

    1. Hi Paul, sorry it’s taken so long to reply.

      The fern is still growing inside the stump of the tree fern. It’s not particularly spectacular because I just chose a fern that had self seeded somewhere in the garden as I didn’t know whether it would work or not.

      The hardest part was actually scoping out the hollow as the inside of the tree fern is very hard.

      Another point is you need to remember to water it. Hope it works for you good luck


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