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New figs on the block

Apr 7, 2021

I’m not the only figgy in this corner of Paris: there’s a kindred spirit just up the street! Today we’re going to take a look at their potted sidewalk fig tree.

I first spotted this tree on my walk to work in December, when I noticed the distinctive leaf shape of a fig and snapped a picture to send my wife. Here he was in December:

A neighborhood fig tree in December

You can see that he is a skinny tree growing from a very large base—there was once a much larger tree here.

Since then, I have kept an eye on him on my commutes. Sometime during the winter, the owner of this tree snipped off the top! This was likely to encourage the tree to branch out at that point, rather than continue to grow straight up.

Today I snapped some pictures of this tree on my way to work. Here is a detail of how his top is doing:

The top of the neighborhood tree today

Look at all those little branches! His owners succeeded in encouraging branching by pruning the tree this winter. Here’s a look at the bottom:

The bottom of the neighborhood tree today

Look at all those little fig trees! Behind the big stump there are even a couple little trees poking out of the dirt several centimeters away from the base.

It looks like there has already been some pruning down here; perhaps the owners of this fig will continue to prune these shoots down to encourage more resources to the top. Stay tuned to find out!

Tree diaries: foreign correspondence

Apr 6, 2021

I said in the flagship post of this blog that I am the owner of two fig trees but the caretaker of one, and in my second post I shared an update about my ward. Now, I will introduce my estranged daughter, living with her grandfather overseas.

We got this fig in the early summer of 2019, as a roughly half-meter tall twig from the Ithaca Farmers’ Market. For the first couple months of its life with us it lived outside next to the porch in its original disposable pot. By the time I bought a large ceramic pot for it for my wife’s birthday in late August, it had grown well over a meter taller, and also well into the ground underneath its pot! Transplanting it was a bit traumatic, as deep roots had to be cut to free it from the ground. I can’t find any pictures of it from this phase of its life.

That winter we did not understand the principle of overwintering figs, and mistakenly tried to keep its leaves on as the days became shorter and colder. Here is a picture of the tree from November of 2019, with some baby spiders climbing all over it:

Our American fig in November of 2019

Our misguided attempts to keep the tree awake that winter made him quite confused, and in January he started growing a fig!

Our fig tree with a tiny green fig, and the author's feet

Of course, with the short winter days and cold temperatures, the fig never ripened and I had to throw it out.

The tree bounced back from this experience and started growing voraciously this summer. The only picture I have of it is from June, early in its growth spurt:

Our fig tree last summer

In August we had to abandon him to move across and then out of the country, and left him in the care of my father-in-law. This time, with strict instructions on how to appropriately overwinter the poor thing! He reportedly lost his leaves and slept in a healthy way, though by February he became impatient. On Valentines day we received this picture:

Our fig tree on Valentines day

By mid-March, things had progressed further:

Our fig tree on Valentines day

Despite an early start, he looks to be in good hands! With any luck, he might yield his first edible figs this summer, though we probably will not be around to enjoy them.

Tree diaries

Apr 5, 2021

This is the first post in Tree diaries, in which I update you all on the state of my own fig cultivation. Today I’ll be reporting on the state of my tree here in Paris, pictured below.

My fig tree today.

I bought this plant at a local garden store last Saturday the 27th. At the time, he was only a long stick poking out of a disposable planter, which was fortunate because I had to pack him into a saddle bag and bike him home.

Planting the root ball was easy, especially since we already had a pot full of well-draining soil prepared (leftover from a kumquat tree that didn’t survive a midwinter repotting). For the first few days he pushed quite a bit out water out of the cut at his top, but in the last few days it has started to heal up and no water has come out.

As you can see, eight days in and he is mostly still a stick, though he had a recent burst of growth about a nub in his middle. Here’s a detail of that growth:

My fig tree today.

In the last couple days several other bright green nubs have formed at other old leaf sites, so I think we are in store for a handful of branches (or at least new leaves) in the coming weeks!

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