To allow one giant agave plant to erupt through the roof of a grade II listed greenhouse might be considered unfortunate, but to let two, starts to look like carelessness.
So spare a thought for custodians Phil and Janice Dadds who had just finished repairing the glass panels of their Victorian Italianate glass house in Ramsgate, Kent, when they noticed that a second agave was starting to wake up.
American agave plants can live for a hundred years and bloom spectacularly just once in their lifetime, before dying, and most gardeners will never see the flowers.
But the couple were amazed when in 2015, one of their agaves started to soar skywards, eventually barging through the greenhouse, in a botanical outburst which was as impressive as it was costly.
It took more than a year to remove the plant, and restore the greenhouse, but on April 17 this year, a second plant started growing six inches a day, and has been shooting up ever since, finally emerging through the roof last week.
“I just thought, here we go again,” said Mr Dadds who has looked after the greenhouse with his wife for 14 years.
“We suspected it might go, because it had begun to emit a sugary secretion which is a sign that the spike is about to start growing.
“It took a lot of effort to remove the first one. We had to scaffold up the whole greenhouse, and attach the poles to the wall behind which made the scaffolders very nervous. Then we had to take apart the agave piece by piece.
“But at least we know what to expect this time. We’ll probably leave it up for a year, like last time, to allow people to see it, and then take it out next year.”
The couple had been warned that the second agave could erupt shortly afterwards because the plants were brought to the greenhouse at the same time, between 80 and 100 years ago. But it was too large to to remove the couple could only wait and watch.
Curiously the original agave bloomed during the last general election campaign, while while the new plant began to erupt a day before Theresa May called the snap June election.
Mrs Dadds, who also runs a tea room at the site, said: “It started growing on Easter Monday, growing at least six inches a day. We had a metal worker lined up to take the glass and glazing bar out.
“Interestingly, the last time this happened was a general election.”
The greenhouse usually attracts around 4,000 visitors each year but the agave blooms have attracted three times as many visitors, from all over the world.
The couple have commissioned a local artist to turn the spike of the original agave plant into a totem pole, and made candle holders from the excess stem, which they are hoping to sell to fund the removal of the new 30ft plant.
Both plants were brought from a house in nearby Cliftonville around 1975 but have shown little signs of activity in the last four decades.
It is thought to be the first time an American Agave has bloomed in Britain for 14 years. The last time it happened was at Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh in 2001.
Before its final growth spurt, it stood at around 4ft in height, with large leaves spreading over a 6ft in diameter. Then it started to produce a ‘spike.
The greenhouse, which was recently restored with the help of Thanet District Council and English Heritage, has stood at the site since 1832, attracts around 4,000 visitors every year has seen a surge of interest in recent months, as news of the agave’s growth spread.
It was originally part of a 22 acre estate owned by Sir Moses Montefiore, a British financier and former Sheriff of London, but is now part of the King George VI Memorial Park.
In 2002 the nearby stableblock was bought by Mr Dadds’ architectural company who also are responsible for the upkeep of the greenhouse.
The giant American agave is native to the deserts of the Southwestern United States and Mexico and specimens can grow for between 80 and 100 years before flowering and dying shortly afterwards.
For this reason, the species is commonly known as the Century Plant.
It has evolved to survive in harsh, low-water environments, so the plants produce hundreds, if not thousands, of seeds, giving them the best chance that a few might actually survive.