Monday, July 30, 2012

Getting weepy over a plant

Ok, I am not exaggerating when I say that one of the reasons I chose our home here in Las Vegas was this larger than life spiky prehistoric wonder of an agave plant in the front yard.  It was novel.  Edgy.  Tried to gore unsuspecting visitors as they walked up our sidewalk.  I loved it.
agave in this picture is larger than it appears.

So 3 years pass, and the agave plant and I settle into a happy coexistence.  It grows.  Our family grows.  I ignore the dead leaves trapped under its thorny spines, and occasionally trim back its needle sharp ends.  But mainly it stands as a cheerful, spunky "welcome home" sign to me in all my coming and going.

Then one morning this May, a small shoot appeared in the middle.  The next day, it had grown a foot and resembled a large stalk of asparagus.  Days later, it was taller than me.  Then, the garage.  Then, it towered over the neighbor's house and sprouted magnificent leafy branches.  Like this:

i-fcf863a3ec28df8a0612e9b08ede5331-Century Plant3.jpg
not my agave.  or my house.   But this is pretty much what ours looked like.  

In my curiosity over what was happening to my wonder of a plant, I took to the internet.  It was there that I learned that my plant, also known as a "century plant", was shooting forth its life force into one grand finale of reproductive fervor.  It would sprout, go to seed, and die.  Knowing the end was near, we watched the plant wistfully each day as it grew taller, as the branches grew wider and began to flower, and as the bottom "mother" plant began to brown.  Then, it started to lean.  A lot.   

Finally, on the morning after a windstorm with the plant at nearly a 45 degree angle, leaning directly over my neighbor's roof, he finally caught up with me in the driveway and demanded in a very nice, neighborly way that we remove the thing before it came crashing into his roof/car/children.  

And so that evening, Matt tied a rope around the trunk and heaved the entire thing out of the ground: 

it came down easier and faster than we expected.  Despite the size, its root system was very superficial.  Because we were neglecting Family Home Evening to deal with the plant, we even came up with an on the spot lesson about building a strong foundation.  The neighbors may have stared when they saw us all straddling the spent tree singing, "The wise man built his house upon the rock!"

Yes, I know it's ridiculous to get sentimental about a spiny succulent.  But this wild and unwieldy plant was kind of like a pet to me: loyal, friendly, and full of heart.  It gave up its life in a spectacular fashion and gave us one last marvelous show.  Not to get sentimental.  About a plant.  

It took all evening to saw the remains of the trunk into small chunks, and 3 weeks worth of garbage pick-ups before all the remnants were taken.  Matt finally had to cut off all the leaves and roll the naked pineapple shaped core awkwardly into our garbage can before they would haul it away.  

We planted a new, much smaller agave plant in the hole left by our old beauty.  It is young and lacks the ancient character of the first.  But with any luck, it will grow into a part of someone else's story, somewhere down the line.