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Polystichum shield ferns This is one of the best genera of all for garden plants. Most are strong growing and accommodating, with stiff, fine-textured fronds and a happy ability to survive wherever they are put. A number of Polystichums have acquired the word ‘holly’ as part of their English names. They are not actually sharp and will not prick you, but the name gives a good impression of the foliage texture and appearance.

P. aculeatum AGM (E) hard shield fern Hight/Spread 60cm or more. A good British native, with strong, bipinnate, evergreen fronds and one of the few natives which are glossy. 'Densum Group' (Shown) is a dwarf form with overlapping pinnae, like slates on a roof. Quite distinct.

P. munitum AGM (E) western sword fern. Hight/Spread 80cm A strongly formed fern, with large pinnae resembling sword blades, the whole pinnate frond looking very like a palm frond. A good North American plant with a strong architecture, it is often the commonest wild fern across much of its range in the new world, dominating whole tracts of forest. Easy to grow but needs shade and good cultivation to show its best.

P. polyblepharum AGM (E) The tassel fern. Hight/Spread 70cm A beautiful species from Japan, with glossy almost varnished evergreen fronds, which are note for their beauty in spring when they first emerge covered in shaggy brown scales, earning it the common name of tassel fern. Shade, and moist soils suit it well. It seems quite hardy and may be becoming naturalised in the south west. However although with me plants came through the hard winter of 2010 to 2011 in the garden, the same plants, though well established, were killed by late spring frosts following the mild winter of 2014. Yet it is such a beautiful plant I shall not hesitate to replant.