natural influences

japanese climbing fern
Originally uploaded by Bridgman Pottery
This little plate has long been sold, but it is one of my favorites. The plant is a Japanese Climbing Fern, a relatively scarce plant commercially, but it pops up all over the place in the Memphis area and throughout the South. Felder Rushing and Steve Bender included it in their wonderful book, Passalong Plants .* I got my climbing fern from some friends' home in midtown, where, though lovely and ethereal in appearance, it threatens to eat their a/c compressor every summer. On New Year's Day, my mother and I braved the cold to dig another climbing fern at a friend's home in the country. Its leaves are different-markedly larger and lobed, like hands; I believe that it is a different variety of fern altogether.

Ferns are my favorite plants to use in my pottery designs; they are also some of my favorite plants for the garden. I love their varied texture and colors. This time of year, there are only a handful of ferns left in my yard to use in pottery. My first big sales of the year are in late April, when there are leaves aplenty, but now is the time that I must build inventory. I put the pot of ferns that we dug on new year's in my cool-ish den so that they would not freeze. It was joined my a pot of ferns that came from my grandmother's house in Louisiana- I know it will not survive the arctic blasts that came through last week and promise to come again. Those two pots, plus a small rabbit's foot fern in the steamy bathroom, will provide some fodder for design, as will the large sensitive ferns and japanese maple leaves that I pressed between dictionary pages this fall.

I must admit that when attending a party this week, I was struck by a large bed of ferns growing in an enclosed courtyard of the hosts- I may need to beg a few fronds from them when my own supply dwindles. There is a vacant for-sale home on my street with some magnificent large ferns that have tempted me, as well.

A gardener is never far from thoughts of greening spring.

*I should disclose that while this is my favorite gardening book (I've purchased five copies for myself and to give as gifts), this is not a book for gardeners anywhere but the South, unless said gardeners just want a good read. It's not so much a how-to, but includes plant profiles, anecdotes, and the bare minimum instructions for propagation and care. Also, though the link is through Amazon, I am not an affiliate at this time. Co-author Felder Rushing hosts a weekly radio show through Mississippi Public Broadcasting, the Gestalt Gardener. It is also available through iTunes. Steve Bender is the garden editor for Southern Living Magazine.