How we saved our bird’s nest fern

I remember being impressed by this huge bird’s nest fern planted in front of my aunt’s house – it had a diameter of about 3 or more metres, and a child tossed in there could easily be lost. Of course I was inspired to try growing one of our own. Fortunately, I didn’t have to buy a fern – they grow wild here, on tree trunks and in nooks and crannies in the drains – so it was a matter of nurturing one in a pot and getting it big enough to plant in the cool shade under our old apple mango tree where it grew and thrived.

See how the fern flourished under the apple mango tree? Dogs in picture to show size of fern.

What we didn’t realize was that as the apple mango tree got older, it became infested with beetles, causing the tree to rot from within. After a couple of years, the tree had to be removed. The professional tree-cutters did a wonderful job of protecting the fern when they cut the tree down, and the fern looked fine when they were done. Unfortunately, it went into major shock when it suddenly got the full blast of the sun. It stopped putting out new leaves, and started withering slowly but surely.

The underside of the fern leaf to show how it has lightened in colour since being exposed to full sun.

We did everything we could, from pruning away dying leaves to watering heavily a few times a day. Nothing seemed to stop its slow demise. Then, a cousin who’s always dabbled in some form of agriculture suggested that we heap mulch around the fern. It would keep moisture in, he said. So, for three months, we dumped all the green lawn clippings around the base of the fern. The fern seemed to pause. Then, about six months after the tree was removed, we finally saw new leaves forming! The fern grows more slowly now, but it seems settled where it is.

The fern today - a nice focal point I'm building around!

The only problem with the mulching method is that there are a lot of insects living in there that affect the plants I’ve put around the fern. Yup, that’s the gardener’s perennial problem – change something and there’s a domino effect to contend with! We’ve since planted a mangosteen tree next to the fern, but it will be a few years before it grows enough to match the shade that the apple mango tree provided. In that time, who knows how the garden will have evolved?

© 2011 All rights reserved.


Comments are closed.