Athyrium niponicum var. pictum – Japanese Painted Fern is a welcome change in the shade garden with its olive green fronds overlaid with silver highlights and purple stems. This herbaceous fern can be a bit slow to establish here in coastal gardens, but it catches up after 2-3 years. Formerly a 2004 Perennial Plant of the Year, it grows 12-24″ tall and wide. Hardy to zone 4.
Athyrium filix-femina ‘Dre’s Dagger’ (syn. ‘Cruciato-cristatum’) – This is a cloned compact selection of ‘Victoriae’ with delightful thinly tapered fronds of apple-green. The leaflets or pinnae criss-cross each other and the tips feature a delicate crested terminal. Try not to overcrowd this herbaceous fern, so you can appreciate the delicate form. Grows 18-24″ tall and wide. Zone 4.
Athyrium x ‘Ghost’ – This unusual hybrid is a cross of Athyrium niponicum var. pictum and Athyrium filix-femina. The result is a truly unnatural-looking herbaceous fern with milky green foliage, with a hint of purple – which is what makes it such a good contrast in a primarily deep green woodland garden – you will always find yourself stopping to look at it. Grows 24-30″ tall. Hardy to zone 4.
Athyrium filix-femina ‘Lady in Red’ (syn. var. angustum forma rubellum) – A real twist on the traditional Lady Fern, with bright green leaflets nicely contrasted by vibrant red stems. The stem colour gets more intense with age and this herbaceous fern combines well with red Astilbe or burgundy-red Heuchera. Prefers full to part shade. Grows 24-30″ tall and 18-24″ wide. Zone 4.
Athyrium niponicum var. pictum ‘Pewter Lace’ – Another fern selection propagated as a clone that provides consistent intensely silver foliage (with pewter highlights) on a pale purple midrib. A great choice to liven up any shade garden after the flurry of flowers in spring. This herbaceous fern grows about 18″ tall and 18-24″ wide. Hardy to zone 4.