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The Adiantums or maidenhair ferns are some of the most beautiful of garden ferns. They are usually fine and delicate, with a trailing habit, and wire-like, often darkly coloured stems. While they do need some care, and generally do not like ground which is wet in winter, they are not by any means as difficult to grow as many people think. Ironically, our native Adiantum capillus-veneris (shown opposite) is not hardy beyond its south west coastal range, nor are the many tropical species often sold as house plants. However there are at least two good species A. aleuticum and A. venustum (below) that are fully hardy anywhere in Britain.

A.aleuticum Syn. A. pedatum AGM Wintergreen Hight 50cm. Spreading habit. One of the best maidenhairs, but quite unlike the others. It is large enough for the wood or border, but is included here because of its modest size and its need for good drainage. Nearly evergreen, with fan- shaped fronds on top of upright black stems like the struts of an umbrella. Fairly easy in shade and well-drained soils, it does well for me on the north face of a rockery, and seems not to mind lime in the least. The nomenclature of this species has changed lately, and it may appear as A. pedatum in some books and catalogues. There are several cultivars, including the dwarf, A. aleuticum ‘Subpumilum’ at under 12cm.

A. venustum AGM Wintergreen. Hight 30cm. Spreading habit. A creeping maidenhair for the rock garden. This is probably the hardiest of the maidenhairs for the garden, growing to around. It has the typical maidenhair form and is quite lovely throughout the year, especially in spring when the new fronds are flushed pink. Grows well in any well-drained soil, but likes a bit of shade and a cool root run, such as rocks and stones.