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The mighty, macho agave

The plant was stubborn, but I was hopeful our relationship would bloom.

By Cheryl LevinsonContributor to The Christian Science Monitor / December 18, 2008

Robert Harbison/CSM/file

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I wouldn’t call the plant beautiful. It was more like a handsome dude. Macho, strong, and somewhat controlling. I found it almost impossible to cut his tenacious tips or trim his fibrous browning leaves even with my sharpest garden clippers.

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Instinctively I knew that the repotting procedure would be a struggle. Impenetrable garden gloves were essential. I bought a pair that covered my hands and part of my forearms.

I used a hammer to smash the container that this masculine succulent had long ago outgrown. I tore strips of plastic away from Mr. Handsome’s roots.

“I know it’s torture now,” I apologized as I yanked his thorny spear-shaped leaves out of the jail that had formed in his snug pot, “but you’ll feel freer and much more alive soon.”

In reply, he stung the part of my arm that was unprotected. Ouch! Still, I understood. I’d want to get even, too, if I had been bruised and battered this way.

Finally, the repotting was complete. I planned to position the poor guy on the deck where the sun would shed light on his green-blueness as he lounged in his new orange home.

As I set him down in the perfect spot, his spear point pricked the tip of my nose. I felt the pain and instantly forgave him again. I watered him lightly to calm him down, and stepped back to admire how proud and straight he looked.

The day before, when I first saw him on Karen’s porch, I was smitten.

“It’s pot-bound and I have no place for it,” she said. “Maybe I’ll just throw it into our green trash. At least it’ll get recycled.”

“I’ll take him,” I said quickly, even though I knew the danger.

Karen looked at me funny as I knelt on the concrete to pick him up.

After the repotting episode, I researched “agave” in my copy of Sunset’s “Western Garden Book.” He’s really called a century plant. After 10 years, the book reported, he would produce “a branched 15- to 40-ft. flower stalk bearing yellowish green flowers.”

Karen had already had Mr. Handsome for five years. In a mere five more, my man might blossom. I only hope our relationship lasts that long.

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