Pineapple envy started my pineapple patch. A friend’s homegrown fruit captivated my taste buds with the sweetest juice I’d ever encountered and I vowed to wean myself from the hit-or-miss grocery store offerings. I sawed a scraggly top from a store-bought pineapple and shoved my wilting rosette into a soil-filled pot. I don’t remember if it was a particularly tasty pineapple and I’m pretty sure I pilfered the soil from a neighboring flower bed, but I glowed with pride at having my own plant. I could practically taste my anticipated nectar already, how naive!
I lived in an apartment at the time and the only light my pet pineapple received came between three and four in the afternoon when a patch of sun peaked through my kitchen window. Its only water came from a tea cup, when I occasionally rinsed my cup into its parched pot. I was hardly an attentive pineapple keeper, and my plant did not thrive. Nonetheless, the leaves looked no less blunted nor jaundiced than when first planted, and my pineapple was still alive.
When I moved to a house with a real yard, I transferred my pineapple to a bigger container and placed it outside to be graced by sun and rain. I watched closely as my pineapple’s leaves sharpened and greened. Saliva pooled on my tongue. Surely my treat would appear any day. But months turned to years and my plant chose not to bloom.
I gave up. My bromeliad added beauty to the yard, but it clearly had no intention of pleasing me with fruit. I ignored my pineapple, passing it like some insignificant ornamental… until the day it offered a bouquet of pink and purple flowers. The petals elongated, the core tightened and in days the bouquet morphed into a pygmy pineapple. Daily I checked my miniature fruit but it took several more weeks for my prize to grow, then yellow. Finally, a sweet scent and golden glow signaled ripeness. My pineapple’s tall spiky top dwarfed its fruit, but like any mother I overlooked such flaws. I cradled my treasure to the kitchen.
I was hooked. I cleared a corner of my garden and carefully planted the oversized top from my homegrown prize. It grew rapidly. I added other tops and they too grew. In mere months my clearing choked with pineapple plants, some three feet high and many as wide. Within a year, I had a fruit. Again there was more top than bottom, but the proportioning was getting better and it was every bit as tasty. I planted this top in my patch to let the cycle continue, and my patch further expanded with plants pupping on their own.
The next year my crop grew from one pineapple to three. The following year I harvested six, then nine and twelve. My crop doubled and tripled. My fruit began to look like real pineapples with fruit dwarfing tops, and ever impeccable flavor. My pineapple patch now claimed half my garden, a veritable bromeliad hedge. Unfortunately, now that my patch was worthy of envy, I was moving. It wouldn’t be as simple as moving a half-dead top in a pot, but I refused to abandon my hedge. I was taking my patch with me.
While I understood that my pineapples belonged in the bromeliad family, it wasn’t until I began digging that I fully appreciated the bromeliadness of my precious plants. Thick tubers mazed from plant to plant, an above ground matrix connecting offspring from no longer living parent plants. New plants sprouted from bases and tubers alike. Water collected in leaf axils. Detritus and insects wedged within the leaves. Without the fruit, plants could pass as any landscaping bromeliad. Some decorative varieties even yield pineapple-looking fruit, small and inedible but pineapple-looking all the same. So why not upgrade my pineapple patch? Boldly, I relocated my plants to a prominent planting bed at the front of the house. They look a bit meager at the moment, but I’m confident they’ll flourish to the challenge. I look forward to a glorious bromeliad hedge that serves aesthetically year-round AND provides annual nectar from the gods. Who says front yard plants can’t do it all?