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Dear Geoff, I have had my four Dicksonia antarcticas for some years now, and I love them.
Whilst doing my Apprenticeship for the Parks Department, I was sent to the main parks nursery where a foreman used to grow a whole greenhouse of Dicksonia for the Civic Buildings.
He used to do it by spores and there were lots of ferns, everywhere. Although as they got bigger they were all grown outside in dappled sunlight, and that is how mine are grown.
Noticing how much I seemed to like them, I was given the job of looking after them, which meant a lot of watering by hand in the summer if it was hot.
Last year in February it suddenly started to snow, and the temperature dropped to about minus 7C but only for one night and the snow only lasted for 4-5 days.
This year it started to snow and the the temperature dropped to minus 11C, I was not duly concerned at first, but it kept on and we have had three weeks of it, and now a few more sporadic cold snaps.
Although we have had a thaw, we are promised more, snow and ice, which is not too helpful.
At first I was taught the way to protect them was to wrap the trunk with Horticultural felt, never to use plastic as that can rot them. Then you had to get some chicken wire and stuff it full of hay, placing it over the crown to prevent the frost. However when I got my own, I found that if I got a large cotton sock and stuffed it with hay, then placed it into the crown, that worked very well.
Mine do like a lot of water in the summer, but I always water into the crown first, then make sure the trunk gets a good soaking.
Another thing they seem to like (well mine do), is plenty of organic matter around their base. So I always do that in the spring for them.
Here is a picture I took the other day of one of mine, please note the water feature to the right which is completely frozen.
Regards from a cold London.