I bought an agave plant about fifteen years ago at the flea market. Knowing nothing about it, the striking traces from the edges of an old leaf embedded in the next leaf like old shadows were wonderful. The plant has had hundreds and hundreds of babies to plant elsewhere and to give away. The old mother is probably in too much shade and is not as big as she should be. Many of the babies are catching up as they are in the full sun.
A construction worker once asked, “Is that a century plant?”. He said that every time I walk by it to give it a swift kick; they love that kind of treatment. Don’t ever water it, or treat it nice in any way, or it will die.
Agave is called “Century Plant” sometimes, implying that it blooms only once a century. Not true. More like once a generation, 15-20 years. My mother plant has never bloomed. On my road into nearby Columbia, a big one was placed in a traffic triangle; within a year it bloomed and leaned over like damaged in a hurricane. The highway workers must have been amazed. All that work, then the bloom, and gone! Reading today, I learned that they die after this big bloom, but remain in all the clones of course. And that big dead spiny thing can be a mess to remove.
They take care of themselves and propagate at a lively pace. I have over 90 along my pool wall, and they are a little lethal looking when regarding them, standing in your swim togs. But then again, so is all my broken tile.
I am covering an ugly cement pool deck with tile fragments, organized to relate to a preexisting tiled wall that has functioned as something of a sketchbook for me. This is a real challenge: the unification of these two big spaces. Having figured out how to do this earlier (can I blink my eyes and have it done?), one element of continuity not thought about at first are the plants in the gardens BETWEEN the wall and the cement deck. They are elements in the composition too, and where the work is happening now, the plants are agave.
Although contrast can be nice (think of ST. Patrick’s Cathedral in NYC surrounded by sleek tall mirrored buildings), recording these live plants on the deck will provide unity and serve as a record for the plant’s history.
Realizing this, the next job was to insert the silhouette of a tiny prickly pear plant around the corner from where the work is taking place now.