Marty’s Gardening Journal, September 15th, 2008

9-2008 Staghorn fernWay back when, growing up in Holland, our neighbors had a staghorn fern. It grew magically from a piece of back hanging from the wall. Once a week it was taken down, submerged piece of wood and all in water, then drained in the sink and hung up again. Over time it grew and it became quite a large specimen. We had nothing of the sort in our house, although my mother had a few other plants on the window sill that were not doing too shabby either.

When I came to America in the early eighties, I also wanted to have a staghorn fern, but you didn’t see those around. Many years later I saw a few of them in the Doris Duke greenhouses when I was touring the orchid greenhouse. However, these staghorn ferns were several feet in diameter and would have required a bit more space than I could have provided. Then, one day, while shopping in a nursery, I can across a few small pots with staghorn ferns and I bought two of them. Strange, though, these were growing in soil, while staghorn ferns are epiphytics or "air" plants. I kept them in soil, but they were not happy. Every time one died, I would replace it with another, since by that time, you would see this plant more often in the stores. Eventually I got tired of playing the replacement game. After all, I like to see my plants thrive and grow, not slowly die.

Several weeks ago, while going up and down the isles of one of the big box stores I came across a row of $2 staghorn ferns. Again, I bought two. Once home I took them out of their pots, rinsed the soil off the roots and hunted around for a few pieces of leftover driftwood. Once I found what I was looking for, I fitted the rootball of the fern in the driftwood, covered it with wet sphagnum moss and used some 5 lb. fishing line to secure it all to the driftwood. Now, my two staghorn ferns have a home in the gazebo. The driftwood sits on a dish filled with pebbles and water, to increase humidity. This time both plants are happy and thriving and growing new fronds (leaves). In a few more weeks I will bring them inside and hopefully they will continue to do well. I don’t think I will hang mine from the wall, but finally I too have my very own staghorn ferns magically growing from a piece of wood.

And as for the rest of my garden? Well, I started a bit of clean up. Shriveled up bits get cut down and composted. The days are getting shorter and most mornings it’s a little chilly, too chilly for an early breakfast in the gazebo.  Leaves are starting to fall here and there. Yellow is becoming a more prevalent color. I am making preparations to bring in the first plants. Cuttings have been taken from plants I intend to propagate for next year.

It’s been a good year though. I joined a local gardening society, made new gardening friends and I am even continuing my gardening education. Well, you know how it is; I have to do something to keep myself going during the upcoming months or insanity might set in.