In the second half of the 19th century there was a craze for ferns. This obsession came to be known as ‘fern fever’ or pteridomania – named after the Latin name for ferns which is pteridophytes. Ferns were collected, studied and admired on a very, very wide scale. As well as becoming a feature in gardens and as houseplants the fern was ubiquitous as a decorative motif. Fern patterns could be found on glassware, china, fabric, pottery, stucco and much more. In fact if you look carefully at the corbels in the billiard room in Fota – now the café- you can see ferns in the plasterwork.
Ferneries were popular in many big house gardens and Arthur Hugh followed this fashion by constructing a fernery at Fota. Created around 1888 it contains Tasmanian Tree Ferns and many common ferns native to Ireland. Limestone rocks were carefully placed to create a setting that encouraged ferns to thrive. A canopy of trees creates shady woodland environment in great contrast to the space and light of rest of the arboretum at Fota. It is a very atmospheric area and visiting the fernery is like stepping into a unusual piece of garden history.