I had planned for Dierama here on our bright airy slopes from the beginning. Tall wands, spearing upright and silvery before arching over under the weight of developing flower, Angel’s Fishing Rods are aptly named. When cast at their furthest reach in early July, a single plant will dance and jostle, being still only on those rare occasions when the air is quietened.
Hailing from South Africa, where their corms dig deep into damp ground and their upright, evergreen foliage basks in sunlight, they are quite particular in their needs. Here, in our cool and usually damp climate, they like soil to drain and not sit wet in winter. Most importantly their spearing foliage should not be overshadowed or put into competition, and they will soon dwindle in the wrong company. They look best and do best head and shoulders above their neighbours.
Though they seed freely into cracks in paving and make fine plants when they have found themselves a home, Dierama are slow to establish if conditions are not to their liking. They hate to be moved, so you need to put them in the right place the first time and not falter in your decision. Which is why, in the most part, I am smarting. Three years ago I planted a dozen from a supposedly good source along the path through the centre of the garden where they could hover over silvery Stachys byzantina and finely spun Scabiosa ochroleuca. I had chosen the named varieties, ‘Cosmos’, ‘Merlin’ and ‘Blackbird’, for their depth of colour or so I thought, but only one has come true. The remainder, bar one pure white seedling, are pale pink and mauve, so I will have to start again to keep the colour palette as I’d dreamed it. That said, the white is a delightful discovery. Early, bright and probably ‘Guinevere’, but I cannot be sure as the batch were so muddled and probably all seedlings.
Surprisingly Dierama are good cut flowers. Sever a stem and the papery sheaths and petals rustle as you untangle them from their neighbours. Here we have teamed them with Hemerocallis citrina x (x ochroleuca), a coupling that works in the garden for the stature of its basal foliage and the airiness in the suspended flower. Though Chamaenerion angustifolium ‘Album’ (formerly Epilobium) teams well in the vases, its romping habit would not make it good company for either in the garden, and the Dierama would be swallowed up and lost in a season.
The rosebay willow herb grows here on the lowest slopes in the garden where it makes a fine visual link with the swathe of Meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria) that runs away into the distance in the ditch. The magenta form of this native plant is usually seen on railway sidings and is also known as Fireweed, since it was of the first plants to colonise the rubble of burnt out post-war London. It is not a plant you would want in the garden. Though it runs and needs to be curbed, the white form is sterile and a good garden plant if you have the room. That, of course, is the dilemma. Where the Dierama will sit where it is put and live for many years if it likes you, the willowherb will need to be watched. Pulling it when it is about knee height to keep it within bounds will see it kept in check if growth around it is competitive, but it will be back come the spring, one hundred percent and moving as quickly as it can to take more territory.
Words: Dan Pearson | Photographs: Huw Morgan
Published 13 July 2019