The Fern and I

My 50-year old fern just sprouted the biggest shoot of its life.

I bought an asparagus fern from a Napa nursery for $1.69 in 1979. I started out planting it in a small terra cotta pot, kept outside in the shade. Through the years I kept transplanting it into larger pots and that was fortunate for my relationship with this fern because I moved a great deal and it was easy to bring the fern with me.

The winters in Northern California can get frosty cold, so I carefully covered the fern with burlap when the temp was near freezing. When the fern fronds had reached about four feet in height, I brought it inside for the holidays and placed colorful decorations on it. But the dry heat inside didn’t agree with the fern which deposited brown needles on the floor. Out it went.

Again the fern thrived outside with the only challenge coming from cold weather. Some years it would lose most of its growth, but by spring, it always bounced back.

One year when transplanting it, I discovered there was very little soil left although it was growing well with shoots reaching six feet on all sides. I decided to move it one last time into a gigantic ceramic pot. When done, I couldn’t move it by myself.

Life has its twists and turns and I had to move one more time in 2010. I sold my house with the proviso that the giant potted fern in the backyard wasn’t included in the sale. When it was time to move, several people helped me load it onto a platform dolly. I wheeled it down the street to a new location in Sacramento where it now rests.

Since it was root bound, I didn’t expect it to grow much. This summer it started looking sick. Maybe it was time. But on the first day of autumn, I noticed it had two new growths, one that looked like it would surpass six feet. The new growth was replacing areas where prior shoots had died. This fern doesn’t know quit. 


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