University of Vermont Extension 
Department of Plant and Soil Science

Perennial Publications : Book of the Month

Fern Growers Manual
Barbara Joe Hoshizaki and Robbin Moran.  2001.  Timber Press.  hardcover, 604pp. revised and expanded edition.

Whatever region you live in, if you want to know more about ferns-- the different ones from hardy to tropicals, indoors or outdoors, their culture, and much more-- you should consider this very useful and readable reference.  This second edition is greatly expanded, covering over 700 species from 124 genera, compared to 390 species from 89 genera in the first edition.  Details on each include descriptions, accurate black and white illustrations, culture, hardiness and range where grown, various names, uses, and main cultivars or related species.  While these species descriptions comprise the bulk of the text, general advice is also given on all aspects of culture from propagation to planting and problems.  The authors are quite experienced and respected authorities on this group of plants.

Barbara Joe Hoshizaki was a botany professor and research associate at two Los Angles colleges, has been active in and lead many fern societies, traveled and spoken and written widely on this topic, and his even introduced new ferns into cultivation. Robbin Moran is a curator at the New York Botanical Garden, and prior worked for many years at the Missouri Botanical Garden at which he edited the largest fern flora ever written.  He too is widely written and published on ferns.

The first quarter of the book consists of 12 chapters beginning with an overview of ferns, then basics of their structure which are useful in growing them and identifying them, and which differ from other plants.  Then they treat cultural needs, soils and fertilizers, and care through the year whether indoors or out.  Planting, propagation, and landscaping follow, with many areas depicted under landscaping both from an ecological (habitat) and aesthetic perspective (where they can be used).  Considerations are covered for special needs for certain ferns, and quite a bit on troubles.  This latter is a useful chapter with key to visual symptom, and what the causes might be; non-chemical controls; and in depth treatment of particular pests and problems.  This general part of the book finishes with discussions of fern names, leading into the rest of the book on particular ferns.

Each fern genus and species has very precise illustrations, resembling a silhouette.  There are also some black and white, and color, photos.  Even though written by botanists, the writing style is very practical and readable by lay gardeners. The genus has some general information on unique physical traits, occurrence, and species.  Then each species begins with a short paragraph on general habit and culture, followed by more in depth description-- this is where the initial chapter on botany is needed unless you're already familiar with fern parts.  The more common cultivars are then listed and described, with some of the many misnamed ones in the trade also pointed out.

At the end are several useful appendices (some often not seen in such texts) including how to measure light, fern societies, how to import ferns, names of pesticides and uses, and a listing of genera by family together with a rather botanical evolutionary tree.  Glossary of terms, subject and plant names indices are quite useful. It is rare that one finds such a thorough and current reference on a specific plant group.

If there is a lacking with this reference, it is the lack of a key to help identify ferns if you don't know their genus.  Yet with such a diversity of this plant grouping, the authors must have felt such would be too cumbersome or not user friendly, or difficult to cover properly, so instead refer the reader to several references and local flora and guides.  Otherwise, this reference should provide home and commercial fern growers, beginning and amateur, all they need to know.

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