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A Glorious Death – Spike

by germinatrix | April 17th, 2009

I never expected this. Not yet.

agave vilmoriniana - one of my favoritesagave vilmoriniana – one of my favorites

I knew it would happen, someday – I mean, I have 15+ different varieties of Agaves in my garden, but I wasn’t thinking any one of them would bloom just yet. I mean, at 12 years old, my garden is fairly young, by garden standards. And I didn’t become an Agave/ Aloe/ Succulent fanatic until about 8 years ago. While I adore all of my agaves, I have a special place in my heart for the A. vilmorinianas – the Octopus Agaves. There is something about those wavy, undulating ‘arms’ that I find elegant and also a little comical (I love that combo). I have about 6 of them, 4 in pots.

And one of them is giving up the ghost.

what the? ... my nasty garden!!what the? … my nasty garden!!

Every agave lover imagines the blooms of their special plants with a mixture of anticipation and sadness … Agaves, being monocots, only bloom once, and then they die. But what a DEATH! If you gotta go, why not go big?

battle of the spikes!battle of the spikes!

It is really hard to get a good image of this very rigid, very tall, straight and narrow bloomspike. It won’t branch like an Agave americana, the Century Plant’s spike will – it is just going to keep stretching out until it … I don’t even know what! Explodes? The books say I can expect a 15-20 ft stalk. Wow … I think I have 11 ft now, and it is really tall! I can’t get it all on one picture!

before I left for mexicobefore I left for mexico
... after I came back… after I came back

I’m excited to see what the blossoms look like – I hope they satisfy my hummingbirds the way the aloes did. All the aloes are spent now, even (sniff sniff) Willard, so my Octopus Spike has big shoes to fill.

when will they open? the hummers are hungry!when will they open? the hummers are hungry!

So the pot behind my daybed will soon be empty. Should I replace it with another A. vilmoriniana, or maybe switch it up? Hhhhmmmmmmm… well, whatever I chose – it’ll probably be spiky!

14 Responses to “A Glorious Death – Spike”

  1. Bittersweet isn’t it? So exciting to watch it develop but then knowing that death is around the corner.

    And yes! What a coinky-dink that we both posted about octopus agave within a day of each other! There is another one too (coinky-dink)…the evening before I received my octo agave I stopped by one of my fav nurseries and saw my first (to my recollection) octo. It was instant agave lust, but I was being good and the price was too much, I just figured I would visit it off and on, like you and Willard…

  2. germinatrix says:

    Weird! Are we having some strange octopus agave sympatico? I think so! I hope the blossoms on my spike become little baby agaves like in the image on your post! I’ll have thousands! I’ll send you half! We can start a ranch!

    … Isn’t it great that your Agave lust was satisfied? what feels better than that, really … well okay, THAT,… but this comes a close second! Yours Agave vilmoriniana is beautiful; I am happy to watch it flourish in your garden!

  3. Beautiful and strange too. It’s amazing to me that the plant can support something so very tall. I’ve been driving the family more than once and had to stop so that we could admire the curiosity of an agave bloom. I don’t understand though what you mean about it dying, the whole plant?

    Just me, Karyn

  4. germinatrix says:

    Hi Karyn (though I like CoCo, too-) Yes – I wonder how much taller the spike can get without tipping over! There are many different Agave blooms – the foxtail agave has a swan’s neck curve to the bloomspike … most agaves go tall and then branch at the top.
    And YES – they die after blooming! The whole plant! All of them – gone in one fabulous burst. But they live for years – most agaves bloom around 8 – 10 yrs of age, although the bigger ones will bloom when they are 25 or so. So you DO get alot of bang for your buck. But STILL! It is a bit traumatic, while being cool and lovely. When the flowers open, I’ll have to take another pic!

  5. Wow, that’s one of the best things about gardening, I learn something new every day! Thanks, Germi and yes, CoCo really is fun. I’m off to finally get in the veggie garden today, yeah!

  6. Ah, it is a naughty garden. Hee, hee. I do love the exuberance of it all. I mean, what other flower is that dramatic? No wonder they die afterward. After all, they can’t really top themselves can they?~~Dee

  7. germinatrix says:

    You are so right, Dee – what else could they do after blooming like that? Get up and belt out a show-stopping rendition of “What I Did For Love”? Or do complex calculus in pen? No, best to check out at the very top of your game!
    Thanks for stopping by!

    And CoCo – I’ve been playing in the veg beds myself … ah, so fun!

  8. Hi Evitte.
    Congratulations on your agave bloom! Got to love these plants.
    Here is one I had last year…

    This one was an Agave attenuata, is yours the same?
    You can see the pups that I propagated from the host ship in my most recent post. My “beanstalk” spiked upward, then arched over my property (and I am not boasting)!
    The bees went crazy over it when it bloomed in all of it’s yellow flowered glory. It really was an amazing sight, quite a hole was left when it finally died and was finally extracted:

    Can’t wait to see what yours does!

  9. germinatrix says:

    Wow, ESP – your Agave attenuata gave you SO MANY babies! And I love the way they look, all potted up en masse in the tiny terra cotta pots … nice design idea!
    Follow the link and check them out, people!

    Mine isn’t an attenuata, its a vilmoriniana – it doesn’t have that rosette-like form; instead it has a very open, tentacle-y quality (hence its common name – Octopus Agave).

    I think the bloomspike doesn’t curve the way the one on A. attenuata does, but I don’t know! We have to wait and see – it is getting longer by the minute…

    on by the way, I don’t think I left the name of Ganna Walska’s garden on my comment to your post – Lotusland! It is BRILLIANT!

  10. Yes, that is quite eye-catching, Germi. Wow! These agave/mangave spikes are so fun to watch, but it is a bittersweet realization to see them start one.

  11. HOLY CRAP!
    I have so never lived anywhere that these sorts of plants are common…It’s all so prehistoric and terrifying! Awesome though.

  12. YOWZA! All that spike needs is a “GERMI SAYS RELAX” tee shirt.

    Hayloooo Ivette, it’s Nick, your old chum from the glory days of Domino! SO GLAD you’re back on this world wide garden web, and with such gusto! Brava, brava. Keep it up and check me out at !!!

    X O X O

  13. germinatrix says:

    Hey there Pam! We are bloomspike mothers, you and I; with all of the ambivalence that comes with it, right? I love the drama of it all, but losing a plant is always sad. I am so glad your Mangave isn’t going to bite it after blooming. PHEW! He is gorgeous…

    Kate my sweet! I am totally wanting my garden to be a place where the prehistoric and the terrifying emerge – you nailed it! Wait until you see my friend Laura’s garden, I’m writing about it now – Monster Plants everywhere! That’s what happen when you live here at the edge of civilization… pretty flowers are hard for us, but the odd and the spiky – bring it on!

    Hi Nick! Right on! All of us ex-Domino bloggers doing it on our own … I am linking to you immediately!
    An Elizabeth Peyton beach towel? See? Thank GOD you’re blogging – we NEED to know about these things! (I love her, too)

    Haha … Spike IS pretty Frankie, isn’t he? Fellow garden blogger ESP has inspired me to re-name him ‘Vlad’ (the real Dracula was named Vlad the Impaler)
    GERMI SAYS RELAX t-shirts! Don’t joke… I like it!
    XO friend!

  14. Is that Coleonema behind Agave in the first picture? Now that’s an inspired pairing.

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