Fern Mania

Australia holds a deep appreciation for ferns, dating back to the 1800s when these enchanting plants graced numerous works of art. From Nicholas Caire's ethereal masterpiece "Fairy Scene at the Landslip, Blacks' Spur" to Charles Rolando's captivating "Fern Gully," ferns have captured the imagination of artists and nature enthusiasts alike. Today, this enduring fascination continues to thrive, as exemplified by the Bendigo Art Gallery's inclusion of these pieces in their Australiana: Designing a Nation exhibition, open until 25 June 2023.

In the mid to late 19th century, the term "pteridomania" emerged to describe the widespread craze for ferns in Britain, the United States, and Australia. Not only did ferns captivate the attention of artists, but they also became the passion of amateur and professional botanists, serving as both a leisurely pursuit and a commercial interest, leaving a lasting impression on the cultural landscape of the time.

The fascination with ferns in Australia shows no signs of waning. Google Trends reveals a steady rise in interest, reflecting the country's ever-growing curiosity about these ancient plants. With over 350 fern species, Australia offers a diverse range of ferns to explore.

Tree ferns are ancient and enchanting. These ferns thrive in established greenhouses, ferneries or protected courtyards that mimic a lush forest-like setting. Plant them in loose, well-drained soil enriched with organic matter and provide ample water and mulch to ensure their flourishing growth. They love water, and misters work best, but in true Aussie spirit, they can withstand periods of dry weather making them well-suited for Central Victoria. Maintenance is minimal, but to promote new growth and revitalize their appearance, gently trim dead fronds with secateurs. Submerge your hand in the crown when removing fronds to ensure they are removed from the base, promoting a healthier appearance.

Maidenhair ferns (Adiantum) bring grace and elegance to your space with their delicate, fan-like leaves. These ferns thrive in shaded or partially shaded areas, making them perfect for creating a lush green backdrop in your greenhouse or fairy garden. Take care not to overwater them, as they are sensitive to waterlogging. Mist the foliage occasionally to provide additional humidity.

Whether it be the timeless allure of tree ferns or the graceful presence of Maidenhair ferns, these plants offer a touch of tranquillity and elegance to any environment. Let's embrace the fern mania and enjoy these captivating plants.

Thank you to the Bendigo Art Gallery and the Australiana: Designing a Nation exhibition for sharing Australia’s love of ferns in art.