Wednesday, 3 May 2017


It's no wonder I keep accumulating spare plants in pots.  As I was tidying up outside the garage, and trimming the old, dead growth off the Erigeron karvinskianus which I should have done before the new growth started, I cut off some low growing branches from the 'Brown Turkey' fig planted against the wall and discovered that they had started to send out roots where they ran across the paving slabs.  It went hopelessly against the grain to throw a shoot with roots on it of a named and fruitful fig on the bonfire heap so I went and potted them up.  If I'd been trying to propagate the fig on purpose I'd have made sure they were well rooted into their pots before severing them from the parent plant, but it's worth a try for the sake of a few litres of compost, and suggests that figs would be extremely to propagate from layers if you wanted to.  The snag, of course, is that I don't need another 'Brown Turkey'.

The parent fig started off life in a pot in the conservatory, where it grew but did not look as luxuriant as those I saw growing in the ground, so eventually I planted it at the base of the retaining wall under the terrace (or patio).  I did not bother surrounding it with slabs, or planting it in an old washing machine drum, or any of the tricks recommended to get figs to fruit instead of growing madly.  The soil under that wall is so poor that when I laid the slabs outside the garage I was digging flints out with a pick axe, and I didn't think any further restraints on growth were called for.  The fig sat still for a couple of years in absolute shock, then began to throw strong new shoots from ground level, abandoning the sad, twisted framework of branches that was all it had been able to manage in its pot.

I now have to prune it regularly to prevent it from shadowing the terrace (or patio) and blocking the garage door.  This requires a little thought, since I do not want to chop off the entire crop of figs.  I have been studying how it fruits, and the figs are borne on the thinnish young shoots made in the previous year.  Tiny nubs of potential figs sit on the branches through the winter, and by now they are swelling into recognisable fruit.  I negotiated last summer with the Systems Administrator to let most of the fruiting shoots growing in front of the garage door remain until after I'd harvested the figs, then pruned them, and can see a similar discussion brewing this year.  I took out the tallest growth too, where it was standing well above the level of the retaining wall, but remembering that I'd read somewhere that the figs were carried on the young growth I tried to leave as many of the small branches as possible.  It is possible to train figs tightly in to a wall: I have seen it done in restored walled kitchen gardens, but how the gardeners manage to keep enough fruiting wood I do not know.

I swept all the paving outside the garage and the terrace (or patio) and scraped the emerging weeds from between the paving slabs and weeded the pots, which were pretty tidy, and wrote nice discreet labels for a couple that still had their huge glaring nursery labels.  I have standardised on pale brown plastic ones, the colour of milky coffee, that blend in against the background of terracotta more unobtrusively than white ones.  In fact, I must buy some more at Chelsea since the useful sundries supplier who comes to the Plant Heritage meetings sells plastic labels in every garish colour you could think of, but not pale brown.  I potted up some Sempervivum that had been growing on in individual pots since their previous big pot was hit by vine weevil and I had to rescue them.  I picked Eleagnus leaves out of the Iris unguicularis while reflecting yet again that yew or hornbeam would not have kept showering the front garden in a never-ending blizzard of leathery brown leaves.

And then I gave up.  It was drizzling, it was cold, and my resolve deserted me.  The new plant growth in May is always a delight, but the weather can be horrible.

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