Plant of the month for May: shuttlecock fern

If you were asked to choose a plant for the month of May, which would you pick?  After much consideration and discussion, our choice was decided: it had to be the shuttlecock fern, Matteuccia struthiopteris.

Green. Everything looks wonderful against a backdrop of cool, fresh green. Our Streamside plantings are softened by the fresh unfurling fronds of the shuttlecock fern every spring. The fresh, clear, green fronds (can’t say that enough) open gracefully over a period of weeks and the plant has a wandering habit so, over a period of time, it ‘roams’ among the beds and herbaceous plants to form impressive clumps.

The ferns’ lush foliage is used to break up the blocks of colour from the candelabra Harlow Carr hybrid primulas and the fronds stay fresh throughout the year, given enough moisture at the roots. A quick tidy up in late winter of the old foliage is all that is needed, plus an occasional spade around the base to stop the clumps becoming too large, making Matteuccia a straightforward plant to deal with.

In May there are plenty of flowering shrubs to catch the eye but I really look forward to the subtle beauty of the shuttlecock fern. The cool greenness sets of the vibrant colour that surrounds it, and it’s wonderful to allow yourself to get lost in horticultural heaven along the Streamside at Harlow Carr.

And, of course, you can buy them from our Plant Centre to recreate a bit of Harlow Carr at home.

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The Royal Horticultural Society is the UK’s leading gardening charity. We aim to enrich everyone’s life through plants, and make the UK a greener and more beautiful place.