I may have mentioned this before, but I have a bit of a horror of artificial Christmas trees. I am also bad at being organised enough to order a tree, which is pretty much essential here in Spain. We have, therefore, had a variety of tree substitutes over the years.
The main criteria are that the tree has to fit somewhere the dogs won’t get at it, and it has to support our tree topper. For reasons lost in the mist of time, we always have Captain Jean-Luc Picard, fetchingly backed by a tinfoil star and a gold ribbon bow on the top of the tree. One year, the tiny tree we found was too weak to support J-L P, so we had to arrange it against the stair rails, and fix the poor Captain to them in a cunningly concealed fashion.
Because our trees are often rather spoggy (endearingly pathetic) we have developed a tradition of dressing the tree and then saluting it with a song:
“Oh Christmas tree, Oh Christmas tree, you spoggy little Christmas tree!” sung, unsurprisingly, to the tune of the Red Flag.
So, when I last wrote, Juan had pinched our agave, and I had made a decoration out of the remains. It seemed my hopes of an agave ‘tree’ had been scuppered, but having had the idea, I was not going to give up on it easily.
I decided that if Juan could have found an agave somewhere else, so could I. Every time we went out in the car, I scanned the roadsides for a likely candidate. Having found a few possibly suitable plants, I persuaded Geoff that he would love to be my fellow crusader, as I went to liberate one of them. He stowed a saw in the boot of the car, and off we went.
In no time at all, we had a lovely spike in the back of the car. Unlike our original, which had lost most of its seedpods, this one was almost intact. We struggled to keep it that way, as the stems are completely inflexible, and the branches and umbels have no give in them at all.
We kept a few extra branches from the lower part of the spike, in order to have something to fill in some of the gaps: agave side shoots are spaced a little wider than a standard Christmas tree.
For a couple of days, we kept the spike outside, anchored into our Christmas tree stand, and looking rather lovely. We decided to spray it a sort of old gold colour, and invested a massive one euro fifty in another can of spray, having used most of the first one on the previous agave project.
The natural colour of the spike is quite a dark brown, and we were happy to let it show through, rather than try to cover the whole thing in a uniform solid gold coat. This was just as well, as the spray did not last long, and the individual seedpods were not easy to cover.
Having let it dry, we tried bringing it into the house, and found that it would not fit through the narrow archway into the sitting room. Geoff had already worked out a cunning method of attaching extra branches with dowels, so we removed the couple he had added and sawed off a couple more.
It did not take long to reassemble the parts and arrange the ‘tree’ in the corner on top of the dogs’ crate.
Captain Picard was spliced to the top, and presided over the decorating with his arms raised in a sort of blessing. (If you press a button on his back, he will say, “Damage report!” and “Captain’s log supplemental,” but it is not easy to reach the button once he is in place.)
Hanging decorations on an agave requires a slightly different technique to hanging them on any other tree or substitute, but after a couple of false starts, our tree was looking fab, and it just remained to arrange our developing Nativity scene beneath it.
As Captain Picard gazed benevolently down upon us, we beheld our lovely tree and sang it a specially adapted version of our traditional song:
““Oh Christmas tree, Oh Christmas tree, you’re actually a succulent!”
PS. I found this by accident today. If you haven’t done your tree yet, it might be worth taking a look