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The Fernery

The fernery

The Halfway House garden has a natural fernery growing on and around a fallen macrocarpa. It is one of the most popular places in the garden, with visitors likening it to a fairyland.

In 2022 a new phase in the fernery began, thanks to the financial support of the Johnsonville Garden Club. This enabled us to buy tree ferns and ferns not yet naturalised in the garden. We have also bought supporting native plants to complement the ferns.

Fern collecting was a popular activity for men and women during the Victorian era. The ferns were collected for the outdoor garden, for indoor pot plants or the conservatory, or catalogued as pressed collections in dedicated fern books.

In 1885, Michael Murphy published a gardening handbook, 'Gardening for New Zealand with Chapters on Poultry & Beekeeping'. In his chapter 'The Fernery' he wrote "The fernery, whether under cover or out of doors, is usually the favourite spot in the flower garden or pleasure grounds."

He recommended that the fernery should occupy a quiet, shady and if possibe, romantic retreat. One of his suggestions for shade and shelter was macrocarpa on the outside and a profusion of tree ferns, which is just what our fernery micro-climate has.

Dr Patrick Brownsey, writing in the Te Ara online encyclopaedia, says New Zealand has 194 native species of ferns and lycophytes. Recommended reading Which Native Fern (2019) by Andrew Crowe.

Plants in the fernery

Fuschia Procumbens - Creeping Fuschia

Ground cover. Height 0.15 m. Spread 2 m. Lovely yellow green leaves. Flowersare orientated upwards and followed by large bright red berries. Tolerant of full sun to semi-shade and dry consitions including coastal. Excellent in hanging basket or underplanting a semi-shaded area.

Supplier: Talisman Nursery, Otaki.
Planted: 2022. Fernery.

Kiokio - Blechnum Minus - Swamp Kiokio

Fern. Generally found on banks and besides streams and swamp. Each plant forms a bushy clump and spreads by underground rhizomes. Red and pink new fronds. A great landscape fern. Cold hardy. Tolerates morning and afternoon sun, providing the roots get enough moisture. Fronds reach one to two feet in length. Native. 

Moth friendly.

Supplier: Twigland Gardeners World.
Gifter: 2 x Johnsonville Garden Club.
Planted: 2022. Fernery.

Kiokio - Blechnum Montanum - Mountain Kiokio

Fern. The new fronds have pink, red, orange colour. Forms clumps a foot high. A hardy fern that grows in cold wet alpine conditions. Native.

Caterpillar and moth friendly.

Supplier: Twigland Gardeners World.
Gifter: 1 x Johnsonville Garden Club.
Planted: 2022. Fernery.

Kowaowao - Microsorum Pustulatum - Hound's Tongue Fern

Growing naturally at Halfway House over an old macrocarpa log. Climbing fern. Thick fleshy stems the size of a finger. Glossy shiny leaves.

Caterpillar and moth friendly.

Matata - Histiopteris Incisa - Water Fern

Fern. Delicate looking bright green ground fern growing up to three feet (a metre or more) tall. Grows along stream banks and in damp areas and along edges of native bush.

Caterpillar and moth friendly.

Gifter: Jay Street Nursery.
Planted: 2022. Fernery.

Pyrrosia Eleagnifolia

Ngarara Wehi - Pyrrosia Eleagnifolia - Leather-leaf 

Thick shiny leathery leaves. Grows almost anywhere, rocks, trees, walls. Prefers shade. Growing naturally in the fernery at Halfway House.

Caterpillar and moth friendly.

Peka-a-waka - Earina mucronata

Common orchid throughout New Zealand. Prefers damp areas. Grows on branches, cliff faces. Narrow, sharp pointed leather leaves hanging down. Leaves usually covered in black spots. Creamy yellow flowers in October-November.

Gifter: Ross Bicknell.
Planted: 2023. Fernery.

Piupiu - Blechnum Discolor - Crown Fern.

Fern. Bright green fronds appear to look upright then open out forming a crown appearance. Long dark brown fertile fronds stand upright in centre. Prefers moist soil and dappled light. Lovely ground cover. Grows to two and half feet. Abundant throughout New Zealand. Hardy native.

Supplier: Twigland Gardeners World.
Gifter: 3 x Johnsonville Garden Club.
Planted: 2022. Fernery.

Pohuehue - Creeping Pohuehue - Muelenbekeia Axillaris

Ground cover. Height 0.1 m.Spread 1- 2 m. Attractive groundcover than grows as a mat or forms small mounds. Full sun to semi-shade. Tolerant of coastal conditions and dry soil. Can be used in rockeries or as a ground cover under open plants such as kowhai or lancewood.

Supplier: Talisman Nursery, Otaki.
Planted: 2022. Fernery.

Puhinui - Adiantum Cunninghamii - Common Maidenhair

Fern. Creeping ground fern. A soft fern on black stems. Otari Wilton Bush has a splendid example growing in their fernery. Ours was growing naturally in a stone garden wall at Paparangi. The Maori name, in various forms, refers to high ranking female, first born female and top knot of hair. 

Caterpillar and moth friendly.

Gifter: Tina McKevett, Paparangi.
Planted: 2023. Fernery.

Rarahu - Pteridium Esculentum - Bracken

Growing naturally in the Halfway House garden in old macrocarpa stumps. In his book Which Native Fern (2019) Andrew Crowe says Maori prepared the root as a food source and used the stems for making lattice fences (kakaka), kite frames and spear-like darts (teka).

Caterpillar and moth friendly.

Veronica Hookeriana (Parahebe Olsenii).

Ground cover. Pretty ground cover with tidy leaves and lavender flowers in winter and early spring. Grows as a mat, also climbs.

Supplier: Talisman Nursery, Otaki.
Planted: 2022. Fernery.

Ponga - Tree Fern

Cyathea Dealbata - Silver Fern.

Fern. Relatively fast growing. Shiny green foliage with silvery undersides. Crown develops quickly whilst the trunk is slower. Tolerates sun Shelter from wind. Grows to 33 feet. This fern was used by Maori for sleeping on as it is soft and lies flat. Common throughout New Zealand. Native.

Caterpillar and moth friendly.

Supplier: Twigland Gardeners World.
Gifter: 2 x Johnsonville Garden Club.
Planted: 2022. Fernery.

Wheki - Dicksonia Squarrosa

Fern. Does best in wind protected and shaded areas. Grows to 20 feet. The old fronds hang down from the crown like a skirt. Wheki was used by Maori and early settlers to build huts and fence enclosures as it lasts a long time in the ground. It continues to be popular for garden fences. Hardy native.

Caterpillar and moth friendly.

Supplier: Twigland Gardeners World.
Gifter: 3 x Johnsonville Garden Club.
Planted: 2022. Fernery.