A few weeks ago I went on a shopping spree at Holly, Woods and Vines in Alexandria. It’s a magical plant playground and I want to buy every plant they sell because they all look amazing. If they sold potted poison ivy it would probably look amazing and I’d probably buy it*.


*I am very allergic to poison ivy, so no, I wouldn’t actually.

I walked out with three types of fern (8 plants), three types of lavender (15 plants), seven types of edible thyme, seven creeping thyme plants, two other types of creeping ground cover (13 plants), four creeping wire vines, and 18 mondo grass plants. Not everything is in the ground yet—the shame!—but the ferns are, so:

The Ferns


In the photo on the left is a little bitty Japanese Painted fern (in the foreground) and a Western Sword fern (background). The stone pavers are there to protect the ferns from accidental trampling. In the photo on the right are the two other Western Swords (and if you have amazing fern-spotting abilities, the Maidenhair ferns).

Western Sword (or Common Sword) ferns prefer cool and moist shade and, from what I’ve read, do best in the western U.S. But they’re also supposed to be really hardy so we’ll see how they do here, with our hot, muggy summers. Depending on which online source you believe, they can grow up to 3′ tall, or 4′ tall—or 6′ tall! I checked the Fern Grower’s Manual for the correct answer, which is “may grow to 5′ tall but are usually 1–3′ in cultivation.”


Above is a photo of one of our Japanese Painted ferns, and a photo of one of our Maidenhair ferns. Both are small-to-medium plants and will grow to between 1 and 2 feet tall and wide. I may have screwed up with the Japanese Painteds, planting them on the north side of the house because the plant label said part to full shade. However, the Manual says they like sun (which helps them to develop their distinctive colorization)—so we’ll see how this plays out. I love the Maidenhairs—so delicate and pretty.

As for the rest of the plant spree purchases, I’ll update when they’re all planted! (And perhaps more established.)