Garden Wisdom

"The glory of gardening: hands in the dirt, head in the sun, heart with nature.."  -Alfred Austin



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Jeff, Gardener in Chief

Contrary to popular opinion, some people in the Hamptons enjoy getting their hands dirty. I'm a self-taught gardener in East Hampton, NY that enjoys sharing my gardening experiences and inspiration with others. Hope you enjoy my blog and galleries.

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Sweet Fern, It's Actually Neither

Female catkins add a decorative touch.You got to love a plant that thrives in the worst conditions.  Sweet Fern (Comptonia peregrina) is a native plant that grows in the dry, sandy woodland clearings all around here.  A local landscaper introduced this tough trooper to me many years ago.

Its graceful, dissected leaves resemble a fern, but it's actually a shrub.  I read that the "sweet" part of its common name comes from the minty aroma its leaves emit when crushed, but I'm not tasting it to see if it is sweet.

Sweet Ferns line the shady entry by my main gate, spilling over a dry-stacked stone wall.  It gets about three feet high and slowly spreads to form colonies.   A few seedlings occasionally pop up on the soilless gravel drive.

Comptonia peregrina looking quite graceful 

Sweet Fern, like clover, fixes atmospheric nitrogen to the soil allowing it to live in the poorest soils.  So if you're looking for a low-maintenance deciduous shrub to add to informal hedges or planting beds, give  Sweet Fern a try.   For me, I can use a few plants that thrive on neglect.



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