Athyrium (Asiatic).

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Athyrium This is a large genus of woodland ferns, most of which like shade but resent droughts and wind. The genus includes some of the best garden ferns, with fine, delicate foliage. Despite the qualifications listed above, the plants are tough and easy to grow. A. niponicum ‘Pictum’ AGM (D) (syn. f. metallicum) Hight/Spread 40cm or more. A the most basic and typical form of the Japanese painted fern with lanceolate bipinnate fronds coloured in cream, grey and pink variegation. Perhaps the most colourful of all ferns, it is much more common in cultivation than the species. There are many selected and named types, but buyer beware, as the plants on sale in the trade may not be true to their type. Cultivation also makes a big difference to the colour, the best show being from those plants growing in the deepest shade, which may well make a bigger difference to the final colour than the variety planted. Good forms include: 'Applecourt' a very good crested form, 'Burgundy Lace' which has a deep rich colour, and 'Pewter Lace' with light silver colour, though despite the 'Lace' element in the name neither of these are crested. There are also several forms which claim to be red in colour, including 'Ursula's Red' and 'Regal Red', generally they are slightly more red than the type, but press photographs have often overstated the colouring.

A. otophorum AGM (D) eared lady fern Hight/Spread 70cm. Usually marketed as var. okanum. A beautiful bipinnate lady fern from the Far East. It grows to c. 40cm and has golden green fronds veined with maroon stripes, which is a lot more attractive than it sounds. This is a well coloured fern which is a lot easier to grow than A. niponicum, requiring only some shade and a humus-rich woodland soil. A first-class garden plant, well worth trying.

There are a number of new Athyriums coming on to the market in resent years. Most of which are hybrids between the European A. filix-femina and the Asian species especially A. nipponicum. They combine the colours of the Asian types with the size and hardiness of our native lady fern. They may also exhibit some hybrid vigour, for while they are not always quite as brightly colourful as the Asian type, they all seem to be good strong growers and much easier to please in the garden. A. x 'Ghost is a good strong growing form, with silver grey fronds.

A hybrids (D) Hight/Spread 50cm or more. While A. x 'Oceans Fury' is an even better silver with some pink, and is a well crested form with impressive crests on the frond edges.