I HAVE a little garden about the size of a Kancil car. It’s a shady garden with a rich tapestry of green. Hardy ferns make up the bulk of my small collection of shade-loving plants. The plant that never fails to make me dream of tropical heaven is the bird’s nest fern. Its long, waxy apple-green fronds form a nest-like clump with a lovely leaf rosette.
It all started with a cut-up tree trunk that I placed in my garden many moons ago. Before long, I saw a tight, nest-like clump, and then light green crinkly leaves sprout from the middle, spreading lushly outwards till I could hardly see the wood.
One clump led to another. The plant propagated easily. I needn’t do anything at all except to water them sparingly and remove brown fronds which rolled back as they wilted.
Bird’s nest ferns thrive naturally in the branches and trunks of trees. Growing well in warm and humid conditions, they flourish even without soil as they typically attach themselves to host plants. In the rainforests, you can spot clumps of bird’s nest ferns high in the trees. It’s typically a jungle plant, and a must have in home gardens if you want to create a truly enchanting tropical feel.
TIPS FOR HEALTHY GROWTH
You can plant it in pots but make sure that the soil is well drained but remains moist. A common mistake is to water the centre of the rosette. This serves as the plant ‘cradle’. Too much water in the cradle will cause the plant to rot. So water the soil around the plant’s perimeter instead. You can test the soil moisture level yourself. Stick a finger into the soil. It should be damp, not soggy. If dry, water it lightly around the edges. You can also mist the fronds by spraying water from a bottle. Add a layer of mulch over the surface of the soil to make it retain moisture needed for the plant to thrive. Feed it with water-soluble fertiliser every other week for healthier growth. If you wish to sustain the growth, re-pot every two years using new soil.
Grown alone, the bird’s nest fern can be quite a looker. But pair it with orchids and you’ll have the show stealer, the star of your garden. Vivid orchids add a dash of colour and zest to the cool, velvety green of the fern. Orchids can also thrive without soil. In their natural habitat, orchid plants attach themselves to the bark of trees or the surface of other plants. So the orchid makes the perfect pair for the bird’s nest fern.
If you want to replicate the way the fern perches itself on trees, try mounting them on wood or cut-up tree trunks. Use a piece of sheet moss and wrap it around the roots of your bird’s nest fern. Place it onto your tree trunk or other wood mount, with the roots exposed against the wood. Secure the moss with a fishing line and then fasten it tightly against the wood. Next, tuck in more moss around the plant. Place the mounted fern in a well-lit area but ensure it does not get exposed directly to the sun. Indirect sunlight will do. And then see the fronds extending into its truly beautiful form.