Jean Throneburg's Evans yard is filled with color and blossoms, but one bloom stands above them all.
Jean Throneburg stands next to her century plant on Hereford Farm Road in Evans. The plant is blooming for the first time in 25 years.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
A more-than-20-foot-tall stalk topped with hundreds of unopened blossoms stands tall from the center of a huge century plant, one of the many in the frontyard of the Throneburgs' Hereford Farm Road home.
It has been a long time coming.
"It's a good many years before they bloom," said Charles Phillips, Columbia County's extension agent.
A quarter of a century, to be exact. Throneburg, who is a retired horticulturist, said she got two of the blue agave plants from her mother between 1978 and 1980. The first of the two original plants bloomed in 2004 on a similar tall stalk with white lacy, fernlike blooms, Throneburg said.
"Actually, they only bloom once," Throneburg said. "They put off hundreds of babies, but once (the plants) bloom, they die."
The buds on top of the century plant in Throneburg's yard are getting ready to open.
After the plant blooms, it will die back to make room for the next generation of plants.The leaves of the plant are 4 feet long and 6 inches wide.
The stalk that later bloom will emerge from the leaves.
The century plant, which encompasses several kinds of agaves, originally was named that because people exaggerated and said it seemed like a century before the plant bloomed.
Throneburg has about 50 plants, including four giant "mother" plants nearly 5 feet tall. All plants, except the mother plants, are for sale ranging from $5 for baby plants to $100 for large ones.
"If they bring their shovel, they get them cheap," Throneburg said with a laugh.
The plant, which is grown in Mexico and southern Texas, is used to make tequila. Phillips said the leaves were used to make fibers and drum heads, among other things. In fact, Throneburg said, she had a Mexican man stop to buy some thick bluish-gray leaves to make tequila.
Throneburg said she has plenty of visitors, many who are not interested in purchasing a plant.
"They stop and stand behind (the stalk) and let somebody snap their picture and then they drive off," Throneburg said with a smile. "A lot of people come by, even before they bloom. A lot of people are interested just because they are different.''
Like any other plant, Throneburg said, during the first year they need to be watered well to get established. She also fertilizes her plants a few times a year.
"The whole thing in gardening is to put it in good soil to begin with," Throneburg said. "If you get that right and you did the water for the first year, give them room."
Each plant takes only a few years to send out runners and make new baby plants surrounding it. Once the main plant blooms, it dies back to make room for the others. All the plant's energy is used to create the stalk, which bears seeds from the blooms, which depletes the plant. When the stalk emerges, the leaves, which usually stand up, droop and look a little dehydrated.
"That's the sole purpose of the plant, to put out those seeds and care for the next generation," Throneburg said.
Her blooming century plant began creating the stalk in mid-March. She said once the blossoms appear on the stalk, it takes an additional six weeks or so for them to open and reveal the cluster blooms.
Four tiny bloom stalks have found their way between the roughly 4-foot-long and 6-inch-wide leaves of the blooming plant to find sunlight and create blossoms.
"That's the mystery," Throneburg said. "That must be a miracle. They don't bloom when they are little. That never happens. I'm just shocked."
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