This is believed to be the largest coastal Agave to have flowered in Britain - relive its journey below...
The Nare Hotel is witnessing a phenomenon of the natural world. One of the hotel’s plants, which only flowers once in 20-30 years has begun to bloom. The plant is producing a new central shoot which will grow over 20ft tall and flower with a stunning formation of rosette shaped succulents. This journal will be added to regularly with growth updates and interesting facts to track the progress of this remarkable plant.
Agave Americana (phonetically Ah-gah-vay Ah-mer-ih-kay-nah), is commonly known as ‘The Century Plant’ and originates from Mexico and the southern United States. The common name of this plant is misleading however, as they don’t live for a hundred years but for twenty to thirty years depending on conditions. After years of storing enormous food reserves in its leaves, the plant produces a tall shoot over several weeks, which can grow up to 6 inches a day! As the shoot grows it also produces a formation of rosette-like flowers. The Agave Americana like other subtropical plants thrives in sunny and mild conditions, with good drainage.
This Agave Americana was planted by our head gardener, Karl Whitford, when he joined The Nare over 20 years ago. Since then it has grown in size and stature but never flowered. This is because the Agave Americana plant only flowers once in 20-30 years. Karl is excited by the prospect of watching this natural phenomena unfold first-hand:
“As a professional gardener I have been growing and tending sub-tropical plants for over 34 years. In that time I have never seen an Agave plant in the flowering process. I have known about these plants for a long time and seen them fully flowered in the Canary Islands but never here in the UK. There are actually very few Agave plants that thrive here and I believe only one or two have flowered in the last 15 years. I am looking forward to watching this plant grow and bloom over the next few months and particularly interested to see how tall it ends up.”
Did you know that sap from an Agave Americana is used to produce an alcoholic spirit called Mezcal. As much as one thousand litres of sap can be collected from a single plant. Often overshadowed by its more popular brother, Tequila (which is created from another plant in the Agavé family – the Blue Agave), Mezcal doesn't usually get a fair shot. Similar in taste to Tequila but with a more smoky flavour, this underrated spirit really makes for some great mixing. A more smokey Margarita is delicious, as are the earthy, savoury Negronis.
This week The Nare's Head Barman, Ken Cracknell, launches the new house cocktail called the 'Agave Finale’ (or as Ken likes to call it, Granny's Gravé!). A long drink, the cocktail is a take on ‘The Paloma’, a Mexican classic, but made with the smokey Mezcal spirit. Other ingredients include fresh grapefruit juice, Cocchi Americano, the sweet Italian aperitif wine and one other secret addition that only Ken knows. Ken is the hotel's longest serving member of staff, and is celebrating 40 years service this year.
The Agave plant has begun to extend branches out from the stem in preparation for its glorious full flowering. To begin with these look like clusters but will soon open out into flower buds and then flowers. The flowers last for 4-6 weeks before dropping seeds to the ground. Sadly the plant then withers and dies to make way for the next colony of Agave Americana to grow. Well, this is certainly a grand finale to life on this planet! It should be said that only the plant that bloomed dies though, the colony in which the century plant lives continues on through suckers and offshoots formed at the base of the old plant.
The braches of the Agave plant are now fully extended and each have several clusters of flower buds ready to explode into life any day now. See the final slide in the video above to see how it looks today. Not only does the Agave Amerciana produce the spirit Mezcal as shared above, juice from the core of the plant is used to produce Agave nectar - a sweetener often used in food and drinks as a substitute for sugar or honey. The Agave is also pollinated by insects, nectar-loving bats and hummingbirds. In Mexico, the fibres are often extracted from the leaves too and used for rope, matting and coarse cloth items.
The first flower bud on the Agave finally opened on 15th July 2018, 190 days after the central shoot first appeared on 4th January. Over the following week all of the flowers blossomed with nectar so sweet it was soon engulfed with delirious bees. Now fully flowered the Agave measures just over 27ft tall, and its rosette-shaped succulents have created a truly stunning spectacle against the backdrop of the sea of Gerrans Bay. On Wednesday 25th July, media and head gardeners from across Cornwall were invited to a private viewing of The Nare’s Agave (see images below), which included a talk from head gardener, Karl Whitford, and horticultural expert, Jonathon Jones, Managing Director of Trading at Tregothnan Estate. Party guests enjoyed the new Agave Finale cocktail and Pimms in the evening sunshine. Jonathon's experience helped to bring context to the significance of The Nare’s flowering Agave:
“To see an Agave Americana flower is a once in a generation or perhaps once in a lifetime opportunity. At over 27ft tall, I believe The Nare’s Agave is the largest coastal Agave to have flowered in Britain. The Nare’s Agave has clearly benefited from the unique climate on the Roseland Peninsula. What a treat for this summer’s hotel guests, who have enjoyed the luxury of The Nare with the addition of such a stunning spectacle – a Mexican flora bigger than most of those in Mexico.”