I was hopping idly from blog to gorgeous blog, as you do, and I came across this meme on ' Loose and leafy', called 'Tree Following' and I think it is such a cracking idea. The premise is that you choose a tree and then post about it regularly for a year, on the 7th day of each month ,including photos, information, musings and anything you like really . It is a good opportunity to focus in on one tree and really look at it carefully, photograph it, think about it, research it and, basically, love it !
Ok, once I was hooked on the idea of the meme, all I had to do was to choose a tree. I didn't think that would be a problem, as we have quite a few to choose from in the garden, but it doesn't even have to be your own tree for you to join the meme. It could be in a park or a wood, or even someone else's garden. My first thought was to choose my favourite tree, which is Prunus Serrula, as I wanted to photograph those wonderful long strips of red, translucent bark with the sun shining through them. Then I realised that the branches are so high that I couldn't easily get photos of buds, leaves or flowers. Not such a good choice.
My next choice was Betula Jacquemontii, my second favourite tree, as I was interested in recording some of the insect life which it supports, and the birds which swing through its branches. Tempting...
However, I have decided to choose a tree based, not on my emotional response, but on interest throughout the year. One I know little about, so would benefit from learning about. It is ... ta dah... the Fig tree, Ficus Carica, 'Brown Turkey' (which has been awarded an AGM).
It has grown against a south facing wall in a sheltered part of the garden for about twenty years, in the poorest soil, filled with bricks and builder's rubble. It has thrived on my neglect. Every Autumn, I prune it back cruelly, just to keep it to a workable size, and it never complains. I know that I planted it, but I have no recollection of doing so, nor can I remember where I bought it. It must have been quite unusual in Lincolnshire twenty years ago, I suppose.
Here is my confession. I have never eaten ONE of the beautiful figs which it produces so freely for me every year. I do like figs. When we are on holiday in hot, wonderful places, we buy them in the local market and eat them almost with reverence. When they grow in our garden, we leave them to rot on the tree. I do not understand this, nor can I explain it, nor am I proud of it. Maybe this meme will change it.
Already this meme has taught me lots, and I feel bad about the way I have mistreated this poor tree. It should have had winter protection - but no one told me , or the tree, that it was tender. I bought it in my 'gung-ho' days of gardening, when my world was full of young children and full time work, and I had little time to research what I planted. I knew it needed a sheltered spot , but didn't realise that I should have also given it winter protection. Anyhow, it has survived exceptionally well, coping with temperatures of minus twelve one winter. I also knew vaguely that figs like poor soil, and quite like to have their roots constrained. Having just checked the RHS site, I see that this is indeed true, and promotes heavier fruiting!
I am feeling a little guilty at my flagrant mistreatment of this poor tree, but, to be honest, it has thrived on my neglect. Fig trees should be planted against a wall (south facing if possible) in free draining soil. They respond well if they are grown in a 'planting pit' , lied with slabs, and containing a layer of broken crocks/ builder's rubble at the bottom, with soil laid on top. The slabs should stand a little proud of the soil to prevent the roots spreading from the 'pit'. Alternatively, they can be planted in containers, as they grow well when they are restricted in this way.
Here in the UK , Spring is springing and the first trees are coming into leaf. My fig has fat green leaf buds which should open in a week or two, so hopefully the next 'Tree following' post will show my boy fully clothed !