Winters in Stonington can be harsh, and spring comes later than it does in the Midwest. But it does arrive . . . eventually.
One sure sign of spring is the emergence of the fiddleheads. Our down yard is fiddlehead territory, with lots of ferns growing among the rocks. They get wiped out during the long winter, but they are hardy plants that are used to the cold, wet, windy conditions. When spring growing season is upon us, these little fiddleheads shoot up from last year’s dead debris. Soon they will unfurl like flags to expose their fronds, and then the ferns will grow like crazy. By mid-June we’ll have ferns and their bright green colors dappling every nook and cranny of the down yard.
When the fiddleheads come forth, it’s time to start planting your flowers.
Up above, the leaves are just starting to change. But on the forest floor, the ferns are giving us a blazing preview of the upcoming fall foliage show. Their colors are so bright you can see the ferns deeper in the forest, like glowing campfires dotting the ground and lighting up the fallen trees and logs nearby.
The fall foliage season is a big deal around here, and this week will be the start of prime autumn color viewing. But the rule in the forest is inviolate: when it comes to changing their colors, ferns go first.
When we first started coming to Maine, I was amazed to find that it had fern-filled forests (try saying that three times fast). I had always associated ferns with warm, wet climates a lot closer to the equator, but that was clearly wrong. Ferns thrive throughout Maine and are found pretty much everywhere — including outcroppings of ferns at multiple locations in our down yard, one of which is shown in this photo.
I like the look of ferns and am happy to have them in our yard. They grow in clumps that wave lazily in the breeze blowing in from the harbor, and present with lots of different shades of green depending on the angle of the sunlight. They’re a lot more attractive than the weeds that would be growing there otherwise, and they are hardy plants that really don’t require much care after they have taken root. I’m trying to help a little patch that has started up in one rocky, out of the way part of the yard, and basically I’m just going to water it and circle it with stones to protect it from the weedwhacker.
I also like ferns because deer apparently don’t care for them. The ever-hungry neighborhood deer might gnaw the tops off every flower that is ready to bloom, but they leave the ferns alone. Ferns . . . those, I think I can safely grow.
The leaves are starting to turn on Deer Isle, and these ferns on the loop around Dunham Point are leading the way. I had no idea that ferns could be as beautifully colorful as, say, birch or maple leaves. Walking past them was like walking past campfire flames.