Blechnum penna-marina (syn. B. alpinum) – The Alpine Water Fern looks very much like a miniature Deer Fern (Blechnum spicant) but with new growth that is an attractive coppery-red maturing to deep green. This RHS Award of Garden Merit winner is native to South America, Australia and New Zealand. Bears separate fertile fronds. Grows 4-8″ high by 2-3’+. Zone 7.
Dryopteris affinis ‘The King’ (syn. ‘Cristata’) – The Golden-Scaled Male Fern is a semi-evergreen and another RHS Award of Garden Merit winner. It bears elegant lance-shaped fronds with crests on the tips and the ends of the pinnae. ‘The King’ should be cut back in early spring to allow the new fronds to emerge cleanly. A beautiful specimen fern. Grows 3-4′ high by 30-36″. Zone 4.
Woodwardia fimbriata – Giant Chain Fern is a Pacific Northwest native and the largest of the North American ferns. It is an herbaceous species with arching tapered fronds of bright green and is usually found in sheltered, shady sites with evenly moist soils. Try pairing this giant with Gunnera or Ornamental Rhubard (Rheum). Grows 3-6′ high by 3-9′ wide. Hardy to zone 8.
Athyrium otophorum ‘Okanum’ – This cultivar of the Auriculate Lady Fern has unusual milky-green fronds held on purplish-red stems that really stand out in the woodland garden. It is an herbaceous fern that works well in containers but does not tolerate a lot of sun. The stems hold their colour throughout the summer. Grows 20-24″ high by 18″ wide. Hardy to zone 4.
Onoclea sensibilis – Sensitive Fern is the most unfern-like fern I know, as the fronds are composed of rounded lobes instead of the traditional angular-cut pinnae. It also bears separate fertile fronds (in the summer) with dark bead-like structures that hold the spores. The new growth emerges with a coppery tint and it prefers moist soils. Spreads by rhizomes. Grows 18-36″ high. Z4.