NO collection of plants can be considered complete if it does not include some member of the Fern family.
Perhaps the most popular variety is the Boston Fern, catalogued as Ne-phrolepis Bostoniensis. It has gracefully drooping fronds often five and six feet in length, and there will be so many of them, in a well-grown specimen, that the effect is that of a fountain of greenery. It is of easy culture. About the only care it requires in the way of pruning is to remove the runners that are sent out from the old plant. To secure the best results keep the plant to one crown, promptly removing those that form about the old one. Give it a position where it can develop its luxuriant branches without interference from other plants, and it becomes a magnificent plant that will fill a large window. If crowded in among other plants it is spoiled. Of late several sports of the Boston Fern have been placed on the market. Most of these have proved unsatisfactory, after a little, as they showed a decided tendency to revert to the original type. But there is one variety that remains true to its variation from the parent plant-Whitmani. This is a most lovely plant. Its leaflets are miniature fronds, so finely divided that the large frond has the grace and fluffiness of a green plume. Its fronds grow to about eighteen inches in length, and are six inches in width, and as they are very freely produced, the result is a most charming plant, much better adapted to house-use than the Boston Fern, because of its smaller size. Like the parent variety, it is of the easiest culture.
BOSTON FERN (Nephrolepia Bostoniensia).
Every woman who visits our large greenhouses and sees Adiantum Ferns growing there will want to "try her luck" with them. And this can not be wondered at, for few plants equal them in beauty. But unless great care is taken in the selection of variety, failure almost invariably results. The foliage of most Adiantums is so delicate in texture that it soon withers in a hot, dry atmosphere. But there is one variety that I can confidently recommend for amateur culture-Croweanum.
The texture of the fronds of this plant is much firmer and thicker than that of any other variety of this class that I have any knowledge of, and, because of this, it is able to withstand the unfavorable conditions of the ordinary living-room to a surprising degree. It is a strong grower, of upright, spreading habit, and young plants soon develop into fine specimens. If you have failed with Adiantums heretofore, give this variety a trial, and I predict success if it is given careful treatment.
Pteris Wilsoni is a crested Fern that is sure to please. This has clear green foliage. Vic-torise is another member of the Pteris family with silvery white variegation running the entire length of each frond and its divisions. This is a most beautiful plant. It has the merit of being able to flourish under conditions where its more delicate relatives would prove sorry failures.
Cyrtomium falcatum, better known as the Holly Fern, because of its thick, dark, shining leaflets, does well in the living-room. Put this variety side by side with A. Croweanum or N. Whitmani, and you find it difficult to believe that they are all members of the same family, so unlike are they in general appearance.
While there may be other Ferns with which the amateur would succeed, to some extent, I would advise limiting the selection to these until the grower has become quite familiar with the peculiarities of this class of plants. When she has learned how to grow these well she will be justified in adding other varieties to her collection, but not before.
All Ferns like spongy, porous soil-one containing a large proportion of leaf-mold or its substitute, turfy matter. Mix some good, coarse sand with this, and add perhaps a third of loam. See that drainage is perfect, and then use water liberally. The more moist you keep the atmosphere in the rooms where your Ferns are, the better it will be for them.
No sunshine will be needed. On this account, Ferns are adapted to culture in windows having a northern exposure.
The Boston Fern is often grown in hanging-baskets. Where this is done, great care must be taken to see that it never lacks water. It is a good plan to lower the basket into a tub of water and leave it there until it has absorbed all the water it can retain.
The mealy-bug sometimes attacks such varieties as Bostoniensis and Whitmani, whose fronds grow closely together at the crown. If the pest is discovered before it has had time to increase its numbers, it is possible to get rid of it. Take a tooth-pick or something similar and go over the plant, leaf by leaf, and carefully pick off each insect, and destroy it. This may prove a tedious task, but any one having a fine plant will not begrudge the labor required, in the hope of saving it. But if it has become badly infested before discovering its condition, about the best thing to do is to cut away all the fronds and allow the plant to completely renew itself, or throw away the old plant and provide yourself new ones, which you should make sure are clean before bringing them from the greenhouse. Insects are often introduced into collections by plants infested with them in the propagating-house. Always look the plants you buy over carefully before you give them a place in the window with plants that have been kept clean. It is a much easier matter to keep insects away than it is to get rid of them after they have secured a foothold on your plants. In case you cut back old plants, with a view to ridding them of insects, isolate them until you are sure that they are entirely free from these pests.