Dirt – The Garden of the Century (Plant)

Century PlantMexico confines agave cultivation for tequila to five states: Jalisco, Nayarit, Tamaulipas, Michoacan, and Guanajuato.

33,000 workers in the fields (2011) tend to more than 123,000 acres of agave.

Only one worker tended the plot of tequila in my front yard.

I’m not sure how we became absorbed by agave production. Probably the same way we sprouted ground cover in the back yard – the project simply grew.

Plant one agave and little pups grow out from the bottom, two to five inches away from the mother plant. Little agave plants everywhere. You soon develop a century plant garden.

[If you wanted tequila you should go out and buy some. The agave plant has to be twelve years old before harvest. You cut it down, read your distillery book, and distill the plant and worry about a raid by Mexican authorities. They protect their tequila rights.]

One century plant is a statement. A focal point. A conversation piece.

Agave bed in front yardA gang of century plants? Think outlaws striding across the desert. Strike up the music for The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.

Every eighteen months I contemplated the bed of century plants. I tried to thin every year, but the project always managed to drop to the bottom of my “to do” list. I envisioned pain and blood.

Gardeners tend to touch plants. I brush up against them heedless of the consequences. Agave leaves end in a sharp point and the sprout sharp and pointy spines along the margin. They leave tiny puncture wounds – deep and smooth. They do not clot.

I offered a couple of large plants to friends if they would help me. Nobody responded.

Agave bed in front yardAs with many other concerns in life, when I finally did the job, it took much less time than I thought: much less pain, and much less loss of blood.

I worked my way from the outside of the bed to the inside. Using a long handled shovel I removed plants from above. Then I crawled under the spines to get at the babies.

One year I removed sixty plants leaving twenty. The next year I removed over fifty plants.

With a sign out front of the house and an e-mail to friends, I gave away four or five plants.

When my neighbors found out the plants needed full sun, no care, and no water they balked. Most have automatic sprinkler systems.

I finally potted many of the pups and sold them at a flea market for 50 cents each.


Note: My century plants do not produce tequila. My century plants are Agave americana ‘Marginata’, Agave angustifolia ‘marginata’, and a few Agave neomexicana. The Blue Weber agave (agave weberi or agave tequilana) produces tequila. Don’t write in.

(About Dirt)(The Final Chapter)

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