A Fine Bromance


Bromeliad

The other day, as I was passing a local playground, I spotted a group of men who were able to throw together a random basketball, football, handball, any-kind-of-ball game without speaking any words to one another. There were some hand gestures and a few noises, and then the game began.

It brought back memories of those days in gym class, when the two most athletic boys were chosen to be team captains and then given the task of divvying up the rest of the class into teams. I was usually selected close to last. Once the ball was released, there was no time for questions — only play.

Bromeliad

I became skilled at the art of active-passive avoidance. For example, in a baseball game, I would play the outfield — the far, far outfield, where no ball could ever, would ever go. The field’s caretakers wouldn’t even mow that area of the field — and there I would stand, baseball glove to shield my eyes from the sun. Just me in the tall grass and weeds and pollen and bees.

So when I see a group of strangers put together an impromptu game, I’m fascinated. That simply doesn’t exist in my DNA. The language of the bromance is something that I cannot fathom. It’s something that I cannot do. It’s something that I’ve never experienced.

Yes, I have Joe, but he’s not my bro. He’s my romance — my ro, if you will.

And then I met Dave — or rather, Dave’s garden.

Bromeliad

Dave’s garden is a few blocks away and when I spotted it several months ago, it caught my breath. Perhaps it was the glow and angle of the setting sun, or perhaps it was my garden thirst of having lived in a landscapeless world — but whatever my perhaps was, Dave’s garden was a wonder of bromeliads, both on the ground and in the trees.

I was familiar with bromeliads as houseplants and as pineapples in the supermarket, but here — in Dave’s garden — they were in their element. Hundreds of sword-like leaves in shades of apple green and deep burgundy, mottled and striped patterns, complemented one another. Some leaves were rough-edged and some were smooth. Some had small blooms in their cups, while others sent up spikes of color, and still others were used for the vibrancy of their foliage alone.

Bromeliad

Dave’s garden was a painting.

After knocking on the door, introducing myself to the gardener, and complimenting him on his work, I learned that Dave was, in fact, an artist. And generous. After taking me on a tour of his bromeliad-filled world, he offered that when I was ready to start planting, I should give him a call. He would be more than happy to share some bromeliads with me.

When that day came, I phoned Dave and we made plans to meet in his yard. I arrived with a shovel, clippers and empty pots to take whatever he was able to divide.

I’d like to say that when Dave and I met on the field — or rather the garden — that we did so without words, just like those guys on the playground. The truth is that I had so many questions about these wonder-filled plants and Dave took the time to answer them.

Bromeliad teeth

Because the bromeliad’s sword-like leaves are more saw-like — Dave gingerly pried mother plants from their places, careful not to slice his arms and hands along the razor-sharp teeth along the leaves’ edge.

At the base of these mother plants, small pups branched off. With a sharp cut, Dave separated baby from mother and instructed me to simply place the rootless babies in my own garden. These, in turn, would grow and flower and produce more pups — and I said, aloud, the most un-bro thing ever, the sort of thing that could easily get a player removed from the far, far outfield. “I can’t wait to have my own babies! Lots of them.”

Bromeliad pup

Dividing is about the only care bromeliads need to keep things looking tidy.   They’re fairly drought tolerant. Leaves are able to funnel water into the center cup, which then holds it for the plant. Any excess water that overflows is guided toward the roots around the base of the plant.

Pests tend to avoid bromeliads, as well, although iguanas — insatiable beasts that they are — will eat the flowers. Dave said mosquitoes might lay eggs in the water that’s held in the cup, but a squirt from a garden hose every few days is enough to stir up things.

Bromeliad

I’m not sure how long Dave and I worked, but time flew . . . this must be the feeling players get after a rousing ballgame. When I looked about Dave’s yard, it seemed we hadn’t even made a dent in his garden beds — but the bed of my pick-up truck was full. I did a quick calculation and estimated that Dave provided me with about $400 worth of bromeliads — and a banana tree that he plucked from the ground.

I’ve fallen hard for bromeliads — my bros.

Each morning, I wake up and can’t wait to see my bros, just to hang out and catch up. As I go about weeding or mowing or watering, I often find myself distracted by my bros. I’d rather observe their subtle changes — for example, pups — than continue with the gardening tasks that need to be done. I wonder if this is what the guys on the playground mean by “bros before hoes.”

Bromeliad

Bromeliad bud

I also gaze longingly into my bros’ cups — but not in a creepy, locker room kind of way. I’d say I’m more bro-curious, since I really have no idea what sort of blooms to expect from these bromeliads. Will the blooms be mounded close to the water’s surface, or will I be treated to a neon-colored flower show?

Bromeliad

These days, it’s difficult for me to visit a nursery and not linger in the bromeliad section.   When I see a plant I like, I count how many plants (mother and babies) are sprouting in the pot. I’m looking for the most pants in a single pot. One over-filled pot for $35 can easily be divided into seven plants.

Bromeliad mother plant

Bromeliad pups

Thanks to Dave, there’s also the thrill of free plants. I’ve now taken to rummaging through people’s yard debris during bulk trash pick-up week. Just the other day, Joe, my ro, came home and told me he spotted a pile of bromeliads that someone had cleaned out of their beds. I grabbed my clippers and picked some choice pups.

After all, one gardener’s trash is another gardener’s bro.

34 thoughts on “A Fine Bromance

  1. Just looking at the beauty of those specimens, I am curious to find out how well bromeliads would do here in VA. I will do some research, for sure! Thanks for the morning chuckles!

    • Hi Aunt Pat. So glad I can give you some chuckles. I’m still learning about bromeliads. I’m not sure they can handle your winter, but I do know there are so many varieties, each one adapted to a different environment.

    • Thanks Alesia. Lately time sees to be fleeting — and as hard as I try to set up writing time … In the end, all these sentences swim in my head until I get them out. Be well, my friend.

      • I understand. I am going to work on a post today that will take me some time as it will be historical in nature, but it promises to be interesting! Always glad to see you writing!

  2. I think they are very interesting plants and beautiful too, I love the one with the white-purple-pink flowerstalk ! and I think your garden “beasts” are not keen to eat them or are they ?

  3. They are beautiful. I had the same question as Gwennie — do iguanas like them? I’m hoping that the sharp edges will prove a deterrent.

    • Hi Jean. So far, the leaves are safe from my reptilian deer. I think it’s because of the razor edges and the thickness of the leaves. Bromeliads with smoother leaves may be tempting — and flowers remain a dietary question mark. Time will tell.

  4. Ha, funny. Sometimes it’s all about finding the right people, and if they come bearing plants, so much better! There are so many beautiful bromeliads. They all look very exotic to me. Enjoy!

  5. Oh, you. Thank you for sharing your bromance adventures. I’m curious now if there’s a female equivalent. There’s chicks before dicks, I do believe, but chickance isn’t a thing…although unfortunately Galentine’s Day is…

  6. This is just delightful, Kevin! I think what you’re describing is how good it feels when we find “our people,” whoever they may be. Most of us can point to circumstances or times in life when we are very aware that we just don’t fit in and I always refer to it as just speaking a different language. You’ve found in Dave a wonderful new friend who undoubtedly is as thrilled to have you find his garden a joy as you are in finding it. Your photos show such a spectacular array of colors and delicate detail in bromeliads that I think you’ve found your gardening passion, and you’re in the right state to continue to cultivate them. I have a few in my garden from the good old days when water was plentiful. They are alive, but far from thriving. Keep it up! And I hope you’ll be able to share the journey with us. Often. 🙂

    • Hi Debra. Thanks for the encouragement. I often think of how you’re coping with the drought in California. I agonize when it doesn’t rain here for a week. I cannot imagine when the stretch lasts for months and years. It’s one of the reasons I’m also developing a crush on succulents. I haven’t reached that level of attractiveness with cactus — yet. 🙂

  7. Looks like you have enough bros for a team and this time YOU are the captain! When I dig and divide, I become very popular (something I never was never used to.) Glad you found a fun garden. Enjoy!!

  8. Cute bro post. I like how you tied it all in. It was nice you made a friend who was willing to share. All your little pups will grow fast. My cousin in St. Lucia started a garden and in only two years it was huge. If you saw her garden on GWGT you will see your garden will likely be similar in no time.

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  10. Hi Kevin, I remember the many bromeliads in my sub-tropical garden – they grew effortlessly. Now I only have one sad, lonely specimen here on the mountain which I have to protect from frost! It’s good to read your blog again,
    cheers,
    Flavia

    • Flavia — great to hear from you. The bros are an interesting bunch — I think I planted some in too much sun, and there are others that I would like to bring out of the shade — and there is a tremendous thrill when I see a pup emerging from the side. It’s the plant that keeps on giving! Hope all is well with you in your part of the world! I saw a recent item on the news about a polar bear plunge Down Under — air temp was 33 degrees F. Brrrr.

      • Hi Kevin, It’s good to hear from you too – Aussie’s are always doing something outrageous – usually for a good cause 🙂 We haven’t had any significant snow on the Mount this year – but one of the coldest winters since I’ve been here. These are the days I wish for the sun and sand – will be back in hometown for end of term break, and some sunshine – enjoy your summer. Will compare bromeliad notes…. take care,
        Flavia

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