Book Review: Plant Lover’s Guide to Ferns

Ferns are probably my favourite group of plants. They’re odd, secretive and lush. They’re little living time machines. The Plant Lover’s Guide to Ferns is one of the new books by Kew Gardens, forming a series of books exploring a single group or family of plants in great detail. It was an essential read.

Like all of the books in the series it begins with an exploration of the origins of ferns, their growth habits, conditions for growth and uses. In this instance, it’s particularly interesting because ferns are unlike all other plants, unique in their growth and reproduction. If you’re looking for alien life, I’d advise everyone to start with a fern – they’re weird and magical, captured well in this book.

Plant Lover's Guide to Ferns
The book’s comprehensive directory groups ferns together

Most of the Plant Lover’s Guide to Ferns consists of a directory of over 140 ferns. It’s very well photographed showing each plant well, and accompanied by useful growth advice. Although largely easy to grow, some ferns can be tricky. I chose a number of ferns from this book when I first set out fern collecting. It’s more useful than any website I have come across so far for ferns.

The issue I have with the fern book is similar to the one with the Salvia book, it doesn’t offer quite enough advice on slotting each of the ferns into a garden situation. Which is kinda OK, as half the fun of gardening is in the trial and error. But ferns are so versatile, I’d loved to have seen more graphical guidance and examples of ferns in beautiful, modern gardens. It also has the series’ problem of not being edited for a UK audience from an original publication in the US (a problem for the hardiness rating).

Finally, although most of the photos are fantastic, particularly in the directory. I would have liked a little more of the selection to focus on displaying ferns as the contemporary architectural wonder that they should be. Particularly in urban settings.

Summary: Plant Lover’s Guide to Ferns

I love this series and I’m very pleased to own books about types of plants I obsess about: Dahlias, Salvias and now ferns. The Plant Lover’s Guide to Ferns is stunning throughout and comprehensively explores the world of wonderful and quirky fronds. If you think all ferns look the same, this book is for you – you will think again. The directory and propagation guidance is invaluable and I’ll definitely use it regularly in future.

Score: 4.5/5

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Jack Wallington

I'm an RHS qualified garden designer living in Clapham, London who loves growing plants and designing with them. Follow me on Twitter.

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