Indigo Goes Green

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A LOVE OF FERNS HAS HILTON HEAD HOME IN FULL BLOOM

Marcia Lentz of Indigo Run has an abiding love for ferns of all shapes, sizes, textures and colors — just look at her garden.

On a recent January afternoon, she showed off her lush quarter-acre property, starting with the fern garden along the home’s right side. Hundreds of ferns adorn the organically fertilized soil, and she can identify each one.

David Lentz“I love ferns,” the certified Master Gardener said — a clear understatement.

The variety of ferns in her garden underscores her love of the green fronds. She’s got quite a mix, from shiny bristle ferns to heart tongue ferns and lace ribbon ferns. There’s also the rabbit’s foot fern — native to Fiji — and Australian ferns, asparagus ferns and foxtail ferns. She knows them all by sight.

“It feels just like a pine tree,” she said, describing her arborvitae fern. The semi-evergreen ground cover has foliage resembling cedar, while its scale-like fronds turn several stages of green during the year – soft light green in the early spring to bronze during the winter.

It’s great to see the variety. It’s so hard to not buy one of everything. 

- MARCIA LENTZ 

And she’s happy to share her knowledge. For example, she advises giving Australian ferns — with their broad, bright green fronds and triangular, lacy leaves — plenty of room, because the plants can grow very tall. 

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But Lentz doesn’t limit herself just to ferns. Lenten roses, also known as hellebores, dot her garden; their dark, coarse-textured and dissected foliage contrasts nicely with many of her delicate ferns. For eight to 10 weeks, the roses’ white and lavender flowers will be in full bloom before turning into fruit. 

“I have them everywhere, and they will start blooming soon,” Lentz said. 

The garden also is home to Japanese hollies, with their eye-catching green-white flowers that morph into black fruit, and a “so sweet” Meyer lemon tree.

Lentz also has space in her garden to compost, and uses the mixture of organic ingredients as fertilizer.

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And that’s just the side yard. The backyard is picture-perfect: carefully placed accent benches covered with inviting homemade pillows sit in front of a tranquil lagoon, and the landscape is dotted with saw palmettos, camellias, hellebores and gardenias. 

“I have gardenias all over the place because they’re so easy to root. I love them,” Lentz said. “Camellias bloom all winter through June. It’s so great to see the variety. It’s so hard to not buy one of everything.”

Textured tabby showcases the patio in back, framed by black-painted fences.

It’s a good thing Lentz has such a green thumb — though creativity clearly runs in her veins, as she’s a talented watercolor artist, quilter and crafter. When she and her husband, David, both Pennsylvania natives, bought the home four years ago, the yard in front and on the side of the house was barren and nondescript. 

“It was just a mess with a little ground path,” she said. “We wanted a flagstone path, which was one of the first things we did. There was a wall of wax myrtle. We took most of them out. We didn’t even know when we bought the house that there was a lagoon behind it; it’s just beautiful. … So we put the path in, cleared out the back and just started expanding.” 

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She’s the buyer and planter and he’s the groundskeeper. Lentz jokingly calls it a “mom-and-pop garden” because the couple creates and maintains it themselves, with no help from professional landscapers. 

PLANTING TIPS

Leafy ferns love the shade, partial or full. But they do require moist soil rich in nutrients.

Dig a hole the same depth as the fern’s root ball and two times as wide. Make sure the crown of the plant — or where the fronds emerge from the roots — sits at soil level.

Fill the hole with soil around the roots and water thoroughly. Then cover the soil with a 2- to 4-inch layer of organic mulch, like composted pine bark, to add nutrients. Mulch also helps to retain moisture and keep the soil cool for the ferns.

Water the newly planted fern once or twice weekly to keep it moist, but be careful not to let it get soggy.

Depending on the species, ferns can grow as high as 3 feet tall and wide; other types of ferns will grow only a few inches tall.