Updated: Mar 9
Ferns make such fantastic house and garden plants that they started a frenzy amongst Victorian Englanders. While we may no longer be gaga for ferns like those crazy corseted daughters of old, ferns are still among some of the most popular house plants.
Read on to discover the fascinating history of fern fever, which ferns to add to you collection, and how to keep your fern friends happy.
Live near Boulder, Colorado? Check out our fern collection and let us help you turn up the heat on your very own fern fever.
Ferns are some of the oldest known plants in the world with fossil records going back 300 million years. Ferns can be found across the temperate regions of the globe but are most common along the floor of tropical forests where they thrive in moist soil rich in organic material. They prefer bright, dappled light and are excellent plants for air purification.
In the 1800s Pteridomania - fern fever - swept England with such ferocity that women swooned (at least one to her death), and the most popular species of the plant became endangered due to over zealous fern hunters. Not so surprisingly, a botanist is to blame for starting the craze. Ferns metabolize pollutants in the air but are sensitive to overly polluted air. For decades prior, botanists had struggled to grow ferns in captivity due to industrialized London's heavily polluted air. In 1829 Nathaniel Bagshaw Ward was busy studying moths when he noticed ferns growing from spores that had collected at the bottom of a glass jar in which he'd placed a chrysalis. Bagshaw had inadvertently discovered the terrarium and Wardian Cases were born.
Wardian cases are super sexy terrariums use to grow prized plant specimens such as orchids and ferns that require clean, humid air. You can find ornate examples of Wardian cases at most botanic gardens.
A few years back Petals acquired our own Wardian Case and I absolutely love it! Though I don't keep ferns, or orchids, in it.
If you are interested in building your own terrarium, we carry a variety of sizes and all the materials you might need to start growing your own glassed ecosystem.
Back to ferns: Now that it was possible for people to grow and study plants indoors, they began to mail-order exotic ferns to grow at home. Others set out on expeditions in search of the perfect specimen. Fern hunting was particularly popular among young women who were discouraged from flower arranging as the open, showy petals of flowers were deemed too vulgar and overtly sexual for the likes of proper young ladies. Fern sex, on the other hand, was considered mysterious and vague enough (and still is ) for the sensibilities of Victorian women. This did not stop some Victorian botanists from injecting a bit of naughtiness into the sport of fern-ing by naming one of the most popular ferns the maidenhair fern due to its association with moist, nether regions and shady spaces. If that peaked your interest, Petals can get you your very own Maidenhair Fern, no Victorian mores here!
In the socially-acceptable sport of Victorian fern hunting, young women could find temporary freedom from their strictly chaperoned interior lives. It was in this pursuit, however, that one Miss Jane Myers fell 170 feet to her death. Beyond the risk of bodily harm to intrepid fern huntresses, fern frenzy caused irreparable damage to native fern species within the UK. Species such as the Killarney fern still suffer from having been over hunted at the height of the craze.
CARING FOR YOUR FERN
Now that you've decided to take your Bridgerton role playing to the level of Fern Frenzy, let's look at how you can keep your fern babies happy:
Ferns need to stay moist so if you live in Colorado and are planning on keeping your fern outside of a terrarium be prepared to show your fern regular love: never let the soil dry out and if possible, spray your fern daily (preferably in the morning). Ferns are heavy feeders so add a slow release fertilizer to your spray bottle or watering can every two weeks. You can increase the humidity around your plant by placing it on top or near a dish of pebbles and water. Provide your fern with bright, dappled light.
I leave you with a bit of Victorian naughtiness: The Maidenhair Fern: Enjoy.