The Marsh Shield-fern of gentian meadows is the perfect small fern for a bit of wet ground, and is the green to be used with all wild flowers of like places. One day last autumn I had a bouquet of grass-of-Parnassus, ladies’ tresses, and gentian massed thickly with these ferns, and the posey lived for days on the sunny window shelf of the den (for gentians close their eyes in shade),—a bit of the September marshland brought indoors.
The two Beech-ferns, the long and the broad, you may grow on the knoll; give the long the dampest spots, and place the broad where it is quite dry. As the rootstocks of both these are somewhat frail, I would advise you to peg them down with hairpins and cover well with earth. By the way, I always use wire hairpins to hold down creeping rootstocks of every kind; it keeps them from springing up and drying before the rootlets have a chance to grasp the soil.
The roots of Maidenhair should always be treated in this way, as they dry out very quickly. This most distinctive of our New England ferns will grow between the rocks of your knoll, as well as in deep nooks in the fence. It seems to love rich side-hill woods and craves a rock behind its back, and if you are only careful about the soil, you can have miniature forests of it with little trouble. As for maidenhair, all its uses are beauty!
Give me a bouquet of perfect wild rosebuds within a deep fringe of maidenhair to set in a crystal jar where I may watch the deep pink petals unfold and show the golden stars within; let me breathe their first breath of perfume, and you may keep all the greenhouse orchids that are grown.
Though you can have a variety of ferns in other locations, those that will thrive best on the knoll and keep it ever green and in touch with laurel and hemlock, are but five,—the Christmas fern, the Marginal Shield-fern, the common Rock Polypody, the Ebony Spleenwort, and the Spinulose Wood-fern. Of the first pair it is impossible to have too many. The Christmas fern, with its glistening leaves of holly green, has a stout, creeping rootstock, which must be firmly secured, a few stones being added temporarily to the hairpins to give weight. The Evergreen Wood-fern and Ebony Spleenwort, having short rootstocks, can be tucked into sufficiently deep holes between rocks or in the hollows left by small decayed stumps, while the transplanting of the Rock Polypody is an act where luck, recklessness, and a pinch of magic must all be combined.
You will find vast mats of these leathery little Polypodys growing with rock-selaginella on the great boulders of the river woods. As these are to be split up for masonry, the experiment of transferring the polypody is no sin, though it savours somewhat of the process of skin-grafting. Evan and I have tried the experiment successfully, so that it is no fable. We had a bit of shady bank at home that proved by the mosses that grew on it that it was moistened