Monday, 19 July 2010

Fig Trees and The Sentimental Garden

You don't often see figs growing in England. Fig trees yes, but actual figs, not so often. The RHS says that figs will crop three times a year in tropical countries, twice in the mediteranean, but only once in cool temperate areas like England. The tree is hardy enough to withstand our winters happily, but getting some fruit is apparently, as with so many things in life, all in the timing.
Fig trees make an enormous amount of growth, and often sucker at the base - this tree in fact was a sucker that I pulled up from a tree growing in the garden of the French house we had a few years ago. So it's a kind of nice souvenir, although I don't know what the variety is, but it reminds me of those few balmy summers we enjoyed in the Charente every time I look at it. One of the differences between one's own garden and a public garden like the RHS (apart from the weeds) is that in our own patches we have some plants for sentimental rather than purely horticultural reasons. And there's nothing wrong with that. The Edwardian gardener Gertrude Jekyll would certainly not have approved, she said the gardener has to have a hard heart, and remove any failing plants and replace them with something better. And I can see her point, why struggle with a plant that is clearly unsuited to its surroundings. But we home gardeners have no paying clients to please and we can afford to be a  bit more sentimental, and persevere with our funny old fig trees and so on.

Anyway, according to the RHS, if you want to grow figs in England, the thing to do is to leave the little tiny figs that form late in the year, as next year they will grow and mature into your single crop.  My crop is, of course, entirely accidental, it  just seems to have turned out right. Now I'm hoping we have enough sun to sweeten and ripen them up by the end of summer.


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