Towering Ambition

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 flower began to emerge from a rosette in the middle of the silvery blue leaves with underskirts of deep burgundy.
Over the following weeks and months, the spike reached upwards.
Little fan shaped buds emerged from within the origami-like flower spike
They took on a volition of their own, dancing forth with yet more surprises in store
By now the flower spike is reaching great heights – a botanical work of art

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

42 responses to “Towering Ambition

  1. What a remarkable plant with its spectacular flowers, and a wonderful gift to give a special friend. I’m so surprised to read that it will flower for a year. I did enjoy your friendship/ long lasting plant analogy. Some friendships are like that, aren’t they, and we should consider ourselves lucky to have a few of those.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Glad you enjoyed them Eddie. I read a book years ago called The Secret Life of Plants. It had me enthralled. I don’t know if the authors’ research continued but I remember being amazed because I’d never thought of plants the way they were portrayed in that book. The Magic of Findhorn was another fascinating read. I expect you’ve come across them.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Wonderful ! Such an inspiring as well as interesting story, Robyn. I had not been blessed with such long time buddies, until a few years ago (when I was invited by a long-time acquaintance to join his poker group, of all things). I’m thinking of sharing the message of this post with them, but none of us are gardeners, and some guys dont like to talk about friendship, much less flowers–to our great loss. Maybe telling them about this particular flowering will be an opening. But I’ll need to memorize your words and fit them as I talk; you say this story so well, so memorably. P.S., would it be OK for me to repost parts of this, including the link? I can see lots of applications to everyday life; also to an area that I have been struggling with– friendship with the Universe and among those who look beyond.

    Liked by 4 people

    • Thank you for your kind words Albert. I’m honoured that you have found something worthy. What you find beyond those poker faces might surprise you. Our generation were hard on men showing their feelings. I find it difficult to believe your struggles with befriending the universe and those that look beyond. It’s long been a fascination of mine and I count you among my friends. ☺️

      Liked by 1 person

    • I hadn’t either. It needs lots of room as you can imagine. My tiny garden just didn’t fit the bill so when my friend gave us each a pup, I passed it on to my daughter’s garden where it can flourish


  3. Amazing! How lucky am I? I have one of Ruby’s pups. I am so excited & look forward to the day Ruby junior produces her flower.
    Yes, Robyn certainly has a way with words and I feel so privileged to be one of her buddies.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Hey Greenfinger buddy! My pup grew too large for my tiny garden and it began to shoulder out other plants so I had to send it on to wider horizons. I’m glad your’s has room. Maybe we can have a ‘Ruby party’ when it flowers? Thanks for being a special part of my circle of wise women.


  4. A wonderful friendship story inspired by a special birthday gift. Both Ruby and you are amazing!
    Looking forward to watching Ruby reach its towering potential!

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thank you Rozzie. I find it absolutely remarkable that a decade has passed in the blink of an eye. I wonder what our decade-younger selves would have made of where we are all now. I feel so grateful for having wise women like you in my life.


  5. Robyn, you’ve done it again!! This is such a lovely post and I love how you made the connection of the plant to friendship. I don’t recall ever coming across such an interesting and beautiful plant spanning so many years. Beautiful!

    Liked by 1 person

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  7. I’ve never been one to stop and look too deeply at a plant. I’m more of a way glance their way and quickly admire their beauty. You have inspired me to take the time to look at plants and actually admire what I’m looking at.

    Liked by 2 people

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