Apart from the pleasure of their presence, other benefits birds confer on us sometimes go unremarked – until one comes across a seedling Oregon grape beside the front door when the nearest bush is blocks away.
How else can one explain the crowds of basket of gold (Aurinia saxitilis) that sprang up from one end of the garden to the other, to say nothing of the spurges, bee balms, lavender and, best of all, the Dierama pulcherrimum. I had been given three tiny plants, grown from seed, by a gardening friend, with strict instructions to plant them in a moist, sunny place and let them be. This I did, and they soon grew together into a very sizeable clump with slender willowy stems and cloche-shaped, or bell-like, pink flowers. Although native to tropical Africa and South Africa, this beautiful plant grows splendidly in the warm Pacific northwestern climate. It looks excellent either at the front of the border, a little farther in or beside a pond or stream – thereby living up to its common name, angel’s fishing rod (also known as wand flower). Its fragile appearance is deceiving, for it is a determined grower. Seedlings spring from the tiniest crack in asphalt paving, even causing the paving to bulge as the plant increases in size. It is a member of the iris family, and grows from underground corms. It dislikes being moved, but you can propagate it by dividing the corms either in spring or early fall. Set them approximately 8 to 13 cm (3 to 5 in.) deep in moist, well-drained soil. Water plentifully during the growing season. Dierama grandiflorum has light mauve flowers with darker markings, but most examples of D. pulcherrimum have pink flowers. The odd one out is D. pulcherrimum ‘Blackbird,’ which has nodding purple-mauve flowers. While Dierama is virtually trouble free when established, it is only hardy to zone 8, so for those in colder zones I suggest growing it in a pot that can be stored in a greenhouse or basement before the cold sets in.