The Occasional Gardener: Ideas + Aesthetics + Inspiration from the Garden

Fern and Vine


I've started planting a corner of the large bed I started around the Dark Verandah and some random happenstances have turned out to be really quite delightful. Two of them are pictured above, a dark sweet potato vine and a black stemmed fern.

On visiting a friend's garden I managed to score a couple of lengths of the sweet potato vine - I've not seen it for sale in the nurseries. I put it at the base of the black bamboo I had recently transplanted. Sadly the black bamboo died- it only had a few leaves left to begin with when I transferred it there from the pot it was in. Then I notice one day that those few leaves had shrivelled, the vine below however was very much alive. Then one day connected the dots, why not let the vine travel up. Bam. I now have a dark sooty column thats already six or seven feet high creating a strong architectural shape in the border.

This particular fern often seeded itself in the plant pots at my dad's house. I allowed its own pot and discovered quite a large attractive fern, finely cut foliage, dark black stems and elegant fiddleheads dusted with white. I still find volunteers in the pots so I transferred them into the bed nestling them in with the black vine unsure if it might be too sunny. Not at all. Its thriving and getting quite big so I'm adding more as I find them to form a colony.

I've no idea what this fern is but I'm amassing a small collection of them by  finding them self seeded in walls around the property, in the monsoon drains, on my walks growing on the trunks of trees. The variety is quite amazing. I'm presuming they are all native as I really do want to try and keep this part of the garden native. The Sweet Potato vine isn't indigenous, with South American origins, but a little research tells me that they have been around in this part of the world for a long time like that other settler that seems almost local, the Chilli. In fact the locals commonly eat the sweet potato leaves as a vegetable which you don't see in the west.

The visual chemistry of this fern with the vine is quite spectacular as the dark vine trails underneath and behind it as it crawls upwards creating the perfect foil for the lacy foliage. The black stalks also echo the admittedly dead black bamboo ones. All in all, with some of the other interesting things going on around which I'll detail later like a purple leaved Persian Shield and some dark coleus, my Dark Verandah is coming along.

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