In the early days of setting up a garden in the field of our finca home in rural Mallorca, we had no idea quite how large everything would grow. It seems that the lack of soil depth on our rocky land has been no deterrent to growth: aloes, agaves, ‘swords’ (I have no idea of their official name), and yuccas, have all grown to sizes beyond our expectations.
I used to wonder when our garden would be considered ‘mature’. Well, I think it’s now: one of our ‘sword’ plants has sprouted something akin to the beanstalk of the famous fairytale, and resembling a giant stalk of asparagus. If only. Think of the culinary treats . . .
We know that the stalk will eventually throw out a flower and, once that has died, it’s goodbye plant. Although it’s quite exciting to see this thing grow (and it’s making fairly rapid progress out there), this mighty plant, having flowered, will wither and keel over. We’ve checked its future trajectory and our roof seems to be in no danger, but The Boss will have quite a job to dig the dead plant – and what are probably quite impressive roots – out of the ground. A decade ago it was a small and rather sickly thing when a kind neighbor gave it to us to help fill some of the yawning space that was crying out to be a Mediterranean garden.
No wonder it’s called the sword plant . . .
Although the evil spikes on the end of each sword-like leaf have punctured various bits of our bodies during gardening sessions (ouch!), we’ll still be sorry to lose such an impressive architectural plant.
Our Mediterranean-style garden on Mallorca began simply enough, with just a few baby plants of the Agave americana variety – given to us by a kind neighbour. We duly planted them, fairly close together, not appreciating quite how large they would become in due course. Later, we transplanted the ‘babies’ the original plants produced, increasing our garden stock.
They’re majestic-looking architectural plants, but can be painful if you get too close: the needle-like spike on the end of each ‘leaf’ is devilishly sharp and can cause bruising if the skin is penetrated deeply enough. Both The Boss and I have experienced weeder’s bottom – in other words, been ‘got’ by one of these leaves, while clearing the earth that surrounds the plants of unwanted greenery.
One day our agaves will probably flower – it can take a dozen years or more before they do so – and, after the magnificent effort of producing their only bloom in life, they die. We’re hoping ours don’t all keel over at once – the garden would look devastated.
Agave . . . or asparagus?
Meanwhile, our English part-time neighbours and friends are facing the demise of a massive specimen of Agave americana. They think it’s probably been on their property for around 20 years. Once the central spike that heralded the start of the flower became visible, they started to monitor progress, keeping measurements and marvelling at the rapid pace of growth. There’s something almost alien about their appearance – the flower stalk of the Agave americana, not our neighbours. It soon resembled the world’s largest piece of asparagus. We were tempted to send a photo to Sainsbury’s vegetable buyer, but didn’t think the gesture would be appreciated . . .
Our friends have returned to the UK for a while, so we are monitoring progress, which seems now to have slowed somewhat. We don’t want them to miss that moment when the flower is in its full glory. As you can see, there’s still have a little way to go . . .
It’s the start of an agave flower, not a tree. Photo by The Boss.
Getting figgy with it
. . . the first of the fig leaves emerge on the trees. Don’t they look like little green butterflies resting for a while?
. . . your shoulders and back ache from all the weeding you thought wouldn’t be necessary after having laid a special membrane to stop weeds growing.
. . . you have to be careful not to tread on a tortoise when walking in the undergrowth.
. . . your arms look and feel like pincushions after trimming all the agaves and sword-like plants.
. . . the birds start checking out nesting sites in the old almond tree in the field (the one the cats like to climb).
. . . the warm sunshine that bathed the island in the final weeks of winter is replaced by grey skies, cool temperatures and drizzle!
Jan Edwards Copyright 2014