Jack’s beanstalk has nothing on the Alcantaria!
‘Towering ambition’: tall, very high, lofty, surpassing others; all adjectives painting a picture of the bromeliad, Alcantaria Imperialis Rubra.
But while this bromeliad is a spectacular plant, it’s something much more impressive. The Alcantaria represents a towering achievement in friendship. A decade ago, we presented it to one of our close buddies on the occasion of a ‘big’ birthday. Ten years later, on her following ‘big’ birthday, it’s finally flowering.
That’s right! It’s taken ten years to bloom. But the important thing to remember is, it was always working toward this flowering, this progressive, unfolding magnificence. The slow but inexorable climb to towering heights was a thing of faith and caring. A creature born of trust and love. For while our patient friend nurtured our gift to its impressive climax, we all were engaged doing the same for our friendship.
The plant label says the Alcantarea Imperialis Rubra (let’s just call her Ruby) is one of the largest bromeliads. Ruby will eventually grow to be 2 metres across and 1.5 metres tall over the first 12-14 years of her life. The flower spike is a once in its lifetime affair, reaching an impressive 3.5 metres in height. It will take over a year for the hundreds of flowers to open. Imagine that: hundreds of little flowerings. Layer upon layer of surprises. Kind of like good buddies. They just continue to bloom in the most unexpected ways despite sometimes spiky appendages. I don’t exclude myself here.
I don’t yet have a final photo of Ruby to show you. Like friendships these things take time. Her flowering is only a few months into the process at this stage. Like friendships, it’s the growing, development and the progressive ‘becoming’ that’s important, not the so-called end product. It’s the ability to look beyond the thorns to the beauty they defend.
While we wait and enjoy each new Ruby revelation, I wonder how we can best this gift for drama and significance when our buddy’s next big decade birthday rolls around. She would say (with some exasperation), I’m getting ahead of myself. She’s probably right.
If you want a lesson in life, you need look no farther than a garden.
Happiness held is the seed; Happiness shared is the flower.John Harrigan