The Invincible Fig

Fig Tree in container in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer https://agardenforall.com

Fig Tree growing in a container (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

Back in 2012, I posted an article about figs, titled “Just Figs.” It was a story of my love at first sight experiences with a fig tree (Ficus carica), and the learning curves growing a zone 7-11 tree in a much colder zone, (click here to read: Just Figs ). I found that when the cold weather arrived, a well lit, insulated garage provided the perfect spot to overwinter a non-hardy fig tree . . . and several years later, that same spot in the garage served as a protective shelter from the raging fire that consumed our entire home in January of 2015.

The Fire's Destruction in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer https://agardenforall.com

What was left after the fire (Photo: Kathy Diemer)

When the fire was finally extinguished, amongst the collapsed structure and rubble stood a container with a few burnt stems protruding from it. Though we didn’t have much hope that bitterly cold day, we loaded the charred remnants of the fig tree into a trailer and drove it to our friend’s heated garage. In all the chaos that followed; finding a temporary home, food, clothes and caring for our remaining pets, we forgot all about the fig tree.

Glossy leaves on the indestructible fig in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer https://agardenforall.com

Glossy leaves on the indestructible fig (Photo: Kathy Diemer)

Then, in March of 2015, something quite incredible happened. From the charred and blackened stems of the fig tree emerged dozens of leaves, lush and shimmering with life. It was nothing short of a miracle, and for my broken hearted family, it was a sign of life and hope. That fig tree demonstrated resilience and determination just like any other survivor. Seeing those vibrant tropical leaves filled us with resolve and understanding, as if the Universe was using this tree as a way to message us that everything will be all right, that we would get through this devastating tragedy. And indeed, we did.

Leaves emerge from charred limbs in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer https://agardenforall.com

Leaves emerge from the fig’s charred limbs (Photo: Kathy Diemer)

In the months that followed, we focused on rebuilding our home; an overwhelming time of constant decision making, negotiating with the insurance adjusters and overseeing the entire construction process. But whenever one minute of free time presented itself, I would delve into the one thing that brought a little solace: the gardens and surrounding wildlife – and the fig tree was an extension of my beloved gardens. With the property under construction, it had to remain at our friend’s garage, so I visited the fig tree almost daily, pulling it out into the sunshine and showering it with love and water. As the fig tree thrived, so did we. And although it didn’t produce fruit that year, it grew several new healthy branches and did so every year after.

Cassie and Finn in their new home in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer https://agardenforall.com

Cassie and Finn settle in their new home (Photo: Kathy Diemer)

When we moved back into our home in October of 2015, we brought unique finds from tag sales, donated pots and pans, a few new pieces of furniture and dishware, clothes and necessities, one Great Dane, Cassie, a new kitty named Finn and an awesome, yet somewhat tattered fig tree that stood outside the garage door in a slightly damaged container as our sentry. Life was good.

 

The Facts: Growing a fig tree in a colder climate really isn’t as difficult as you would think. You don’t need a greenhouse, but you do need a place to store it once the frosty temperatures arrive. I store my fig (Ficus carica) in an insulated garage (never goes below 45o) that has several big windows to provide the necessary light. Conveniently, it will lose its leaves once the cooler temperatures come, don’t be alarmed, this makes it much easier to store. While in a dormant state, I check it occasionally and will water lightly when it is dry.

Ripe figs ready to eat in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer https://agardenforall.com

Ripe figs, ready to eat! (Photo: Kathy Diemer)

Once the buds begin to appear, I will water it a little more frequently. When the leaves emerge, it is time to put the fig outside – but use care to bring it in during the cold nights until the frost threat is gone. In my zone 5 Connecticut, in full sun, the fig will have ripe fruit by late August to early September. Sometimes you will have continuous fruit until the end of September. The fruit only lasts a few days once ripe, so plan on eating a LOT, givings pounds away, or making jams and breads. Be sure to water your container fig frequently during hot summer months, sometimes up to three times per day! I fertilize once a week with an organic fish emulsion, but there are dozens of fertilizers available that work as well. In summation, provide protection from the cold and lots of sun and water during the warmer months, and your fig will give you years of enjoyment.

The thriving Fig Tree in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer https://agardenforall.com

The invincible fig tree will need a pruning to fit in the garage this winter! (Photo: Kathy Diemer)

Flash forward to 2018, when our home is feeling more like a home, the surrounding landscape is thriving and a certain beloved fig tree is adorned with a bounty of figs. We had enough fruit this year to feed a room full of fig connoisseurs, but settled on making a big batch of jam that could be enjoyed for a much longer period of time. We are grateful to have a wonderful home surrounded by a tranquil and beautiful landscape that is inviting to critters of all kinds. And we are blessed to understand the teachings of the landscape and its beings; a lesson of resilience and fearlessness. A lesson learned from a fig tree ♥ 

Comments

  1. Patty Wahlers says:

    What a beautiful story, I’m still crying… It’s funny how 1 thing can change your world 🙂

    • Thank you so much, Patty! And you’re right – sometimes its the little things (that we often overlook) that bring us the most joy. We simply have to pay attention ~

  2. MaryLois Barnas says:

    I haven’t had much success with fig trees here in Delaware. This story makes me want to try ‘just’ one more time.
    Thanks.

  3. Lovely story. I also luve in Connecticut and my husband and son are growing 3 fig trees in containers. They also bring them in the garage during our winters. They also have a tree that is growing in our garden. My son insulates that one during the winter months.

    • I have heard that some have luck – even in colder climates – if they are protected during the winter months. I’m thrilled to hear you’re having such success! Thank you for writing and sharing your story, Toni ~

  4. Frank mirrop says:

    Kathy. I know how you feel. My step daughter Dina Ferrante forwarded your blog to me as she knows how I feel about my fig trees. I started mine in New Jersey, also in a pot in 2010 on a balcony. In the winter I would bring into my living room and keep an eye on it. I developed a relationship with my friend and thought it would be a good idea to have another. So I cut off a branch and placed it in water and in three weeks I put it in another pot! I was thrilled! By 2012 it was time to go to Florida so into the back of a truck they went with all the rest of my belongings as well as a rose bush. Everything was fine until I pulled into Florida and had to go through the inspection of my vehicle. Any plants he asked. I went into a cold sweat and thought no way will he get my figs. Nope , no plants in here I told him and he waved me thru. That was a close one! People told me no way will a fig tree survive in this heat as well as the rose bush. I was determined to make it work and into the ground they went. I now have 5 fig trees, I guess I got carried away, and my rose survived. Sorry about your home. You made the best of it and now you have a new one. Things always work out for the best. Stay positive! Frank.

    • Oh my gosh, Frank, what a heartwarming story! I love your passion and dedication in nurturing not one, but 5 fig trees, and your perseverance when it came to smuggling your ‘family members’ across the border! (I guess fig trees bring out that trait in us) In order to get the fig in the garage this fall, I will have to cut some branches. I plan to try your propagation method of sticking some of those branches in water – Hey, if it works I’ll have plenty of fig trees to share with family and friends! Thanks so much for writing, I always love to hear from my wonderful readers ~

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