Blooming rare sight in store for plant owner Shirley

Shirley Reay, with the Century Plant.
Shirley Reay, with the Century Plant.
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THIS towering plant is said to burst into bloom just once every hundred years.

And with the plant set to sprout to about eight metres high, the keen gardener is having to give it away, before it outgrows her Sunderland home.

Green-fingered Shirley is handing the agave, which she received as a gift more than 35 years ago, over to the care of Durham’s Botanic Gardens.

The 78-year-old has watched her tropical friend shoot up about four inches a day as it prepares for its one-off-show of colour.

It is just one of a rainforest of plants growing at her home in Grangetown.

The former hospital worker cultivates the plants from cuttings and loves succulents and cacti, which usually only thrive in hot temperatures.

She said: “Last week I was looking at the plant and I thought ‘it’s changing’ and it started to grow four inches a day.

“So I called the Winter Gardens then the Botanic Gardens in Durham. They said it is going to grow to 30ft high. It is already as high as me, but I’m not five foot.

“I did not want to part with it, because it is like parting from one of your family, but they said they would look after it and I can have a pass to go in whenever I want.”

Mrs Reay credits her gardening skills to her father, who worked in Sunderland Council Parks Department and gained qualifications from the Royal Horticultural Society.

Agaves are originally from Mexico, but have been cultivated worldwide.

Once grown for their tough fibres, they are now mostly ornamental.

They bloom only once in their lifetimes and flower stalk can reach up to eight metres (26ft high). The plant dies after flowering, but produces suckers which continue its growth.

Twitter: @janethejourno