Biggest bloom bursts into flower after eight years

Alec West with his 'Yucca Whipplei' which measures 13ft 6in. His garden is open to the public on the 26th June.
Alec West with his 'Yucca Whipplei' which measures 13ft 6in. His garden is open to the public on the 26th June.

Leitholm horticulturalist Alec West, known locally for growing enormous pumpkins, is now boasting what he believes to be Berwickshire’s biggest bloom.

Garden fanatic Alec, who regularly churns out 18-plus stone winning pumpkins at local flower shows, is also a big plant enthusiast.

And this year one “amazing” inhabitant of Alec’s spectacular greenhouse grew to such an incredible height that he was forced to remove a pane of glass from the roof, to allow the towering plant - a Yucca Whipplei - to continue its sky-ward journey.

Currently standing at around 14 feet tall with a three-inch diameter stem, Alec believes his Yucca Whipplei, which is native to southern California, the United States and Mexico, is probably the area’s tallest flowering plant.

“I have never seen anything as big as this in this country!” Alec said. “It’s unusual to grow one of these plants here at all, but to grow one in Great Britain and have it come out of the greenhouse, and then rise five feet above it - it’s out of this world!”

After seeing the plant species on his travels in America, Alec planted two Yucca Whipplei in his greenhouse in Leitholm eight years ago.

“I never thought they would flower - they rarely flower in the UK,” he explained. “I just planted them for the rosettes.”

Alec later removed one of the plants to create more space, but kept the other in the greenhouse.

And this spring, much to his delight, the remaining Yucca Whipplei, which is known colloquially as a ‘Roman Candle’, offered up a surprise. “This year it threw up a flower stick!” Alec said.

“I’m into big plants, but this is something absolutely spectacular, I have never seen anything like it in the UK at all.

“They rarely flower in the UK, and when they flower elsewhere they are usually white. But this one’s white with purple edges - it’s just a fantastic looking flower.”

Alec’s impressive garden is part of Scotland’s ‘Gardens Open for Charity’ scheme, so fellow enthusiasts and other interested parties have a chance to see this spectacular plant, and judge for themselves whether it really is ‘Berwickshire’s biggest bloom’.

Anton’s Hill and the walled garden will open their gates to visitors on Sunday, June 26 (admission £4, children under 14 free), from 2pm until 5.30pm, when visitors will be able to see Alec’s restored, organic walled garden and greenhouse, an apple and pear orchard with over 230 varieties, woodland walks including a stumpery, a large, well-planted pond, shrubberies and herbaceous borders, a topiary elephant family of yew and a new woodland pond and more. Visitors can also ride on a model railway!

“The Yucca should still be in flower for the open garden on June 26,” Alec added.

“It stood up to those 90 mile per hour gales, I was pleased that it was still there after those! At the end of the day this plant in flower is going to be a one off, it’s not going to happen again.”