It’s time for me to take a little break from the snowy pictures. This month’s plant, however, does boast winter interest. But this photo shows what it looks like in early May in my garden.
The Fiddlehead Fern (Matteuccia struthiopteris), also commonly called Ostrich Fern, is native to most of Canada and the Midwest, Mid-Atlantic, and Northeast U.S.
An aside: I’m back to work after a full week of vacation during the holidays. I mention this because, unfortunately, it’s still dark when I leave for work and the sun sets shortly after I get home. So, I haven’t had much time to snap photos the past couple of days. I’m planning to check out the Fiddleheads this weekend.
If you think I’m joking (considering it’s January in
), I’m not. Fiddlehead Ferns are noteworthy in all four seasons: Wisconsin
- Spring: The curled, emerging “fiddleheads” are fascinating to see. In their coiled state, they can be used for decoration or floral arrangements. They’re even edible. I don’t recommend eating them because I’ve never been brave enough to try them. But the Forager Press offers several ideas for preparing Fiddleheads for consumption.
- Summer: Fiddlehead Ferns grow to about two to eight feet tall in summer. They're so easy to maintain in a shady Midwestern garden. In fact, I find I have to pull a few each year to make sure they don’t spread too much. I love the fact that they’re natives. And they form a tall, feathery frame at the back of perennial beds and along garden borders.
- Fall: This is probably the messiest season for Fiddleheads. The “sterile” pluming fronds die back, and I usually trim them a bit before the first snowfall. The shorter “fertile” fronds turn brown and remain upright as the larger fronds collapse and begin to decompose.
- Winter: The ferns’ cinnamon-colored fertile fronds retain winter interest as long as the snow doesn’t get too deep and bury them. Since we’ve had a bit of a January thaw, I can see the spore-producing fertile fronds out my back window during the day.
Fiddleheads are just one of thousands of varieties of Ferns. The Hardy Fern Foundation has a nifty web page full of tips for selecting the best Ferns for your garden. Ferns are excellent framing plants—usually not the focal point, but excellent foundation plants at the back of the garden.