Waiting For a Figleaf
Some day very soon I’m going to have to sit down and start thinking about how to turn our acre of Abruzzo into a garden.
And to do that, I’m going to have to un-learn most of what I know about gardening in England and develop an instant knowledge of the right plants; and the right planning; and the right water-saving techniques that are all needed in a Mediterranean garden.
In the wake of building our new Abruzzo home, the garden budget has shrunk to the point where it now comfortably jingles around in a pocket, so like all good gardeners everywhere, I’ve been adopting the ‘plants for free’ principal and have been taking cuttings from around the house we’ve rented for the past 18 months.
Principally – figs.
A previous owner had the excellent idea of choosing varieties that ripened in sequence from June through to October. That’s given us a wide choice of cuttings material – a choice made even easier by the wildly-varying size and quality of the fruit produced by the the dozen or so trees around us.
The first choice was easy. A tree bearing luscious gold-flecked, dusty purple figs in abundance during June and July. But when to take a cutting ? And how ?
With the gardening books all still packed away, the internet produced conflicting answers. Autumn or winter ? Thin or thick cuttings ? But all were agreed that growing figs was easy.
So in mid-October, just as the leaves were starting to turn yellow, I cut four pencil-thick twigs, each topped by a leaf-bud; dunked them into some rooting powder; and stuck each in a deep pot of multi-purpose compost.
By December, three had died. But one hadn’t.
The survivor was the sturdiest and stubbiest, which on December 12 prompted me to take two more sturdier, stubbier cuttings from the same tree and two from a tree which in September and October had given us translucent green fruit. Not as sweet as the ones we’d eaten in summer – but an autumn-fruiting fig is to be cherished.
And they’re all just fine. As is a thin sprig – a pruning by-product actually – from a pot-grown ‘Brown Turkey’ variety bought with us from England and subsequently stunned by Italian heat into producing a small bowlful of fruit last summer.
That cutting was taken in February and seems to be romping away. But what’s more exciting – and perhaps only gardeners will appreciate and understand this – is the sight of a curled-up, crinkled lead just starting to emerge from the surviving October cutting.
I’ll tell you if growing figs really is easy once they’ve been transplanted into the new Mediterranean garden of our Abruzzo home and are producing figs for you to pick and nibble – still warm from the sun – with a slice or two of prosciutto (nice) or ripe, creamy gorgonzola (even nicer) on your Villasfor2 holiday.