Nan Fairchild Sherlock & Matteuccia struthiopterisWednesday, October 18, 2006
I knew Nan Sherlock, Vancouver's "Fern Lady" for 16 years and when she died in July 2004 I went out to my back garden and feasted my eyes on the many (as in many) Matteuccia struthiopteris or ostrich ferns that compete for light and space with my hostas. Through the years I had purchased one or two of these from Nan at the yearly VanDusen plant sale. With a smile on her face she would place them in my hands and tell me of all their wonderful qualities. Not once did she mention that the ostrich fern is the honorary rabbit of the plant kingdom. I may now have 40 of them as they spread with their underground rhizomes. They are more agressive than some of my very large hostas. At one time I had ostrich ferns as hosta companions. The hostas are now second fiddles. When the fiddleheads emerge in by the end of April I know its time to go to the VanDusen Plant Sale. From experience I have learned that after that first week of May if I move any of them they will die back, but they will come back the next year after a good year's rest. When the beautiful outer fronds begin to die back in the late summer, the inner, erect, spike-like, dark brown fertile fronds remain. They go a very dark chocolate brown and remain year-round. I cut them and bring them inside where they look beautiful in vases. I may have at least 35 varieties of ferns. Many came via Nan Sherlock. I miss her a lot but when I look at any of my beloved ostrich ferns I remember her and smile.