Wednesday, September 28

Dead or alive?

In 2006 we planted a couple of figs in large tubs. One was placed in the garden and the other on the allotment and until this year all was well and they were growing strongly.
They stayed outside each winter and each summer new growth appeared.

They didn’t produce any useable figs but we could wait and the plants looked great anyway.
All seemed well until this spring when it seemed that both figs had been casualties of last winter’s big freeze.

We waited ‘just in case’ but there was no sign of any regrowth on either plant and so I decided to give up waiting and put something alive in the pot in the garden. If anything was going to happen and the plant wasn't completely dead, I guessed that by early summer there should be some sign of life 

Before emptying the pot I decided to cut down the stems but as I started cutting I noticed that the stems were green under the bark and the twigs that I'd started to cut back didn’t seem brittle or dead in the centre.

Deciding to give the plant a bit more time I trimmed back the branches to what seemed to be viable wood. I scraped some of the old compost from the top of the pot and freshened it up with new compost, just to give it an added incentive to grow. So was it dead or alive? 

Nothing happened so we figured that maybe it was dead after all. Then, on September 9, as we were sitting by the plant having a coffee, I noticed some tiny green blobs on the ends of some of the branches.
Looking more closely it seemed that some tiny figs were developing on the ‘dead’ branches, which indicated that the plant wasn't yet completely dead. 

Well yesterday the fig looked like this:
Some of the tiny figs have grown bigger and some leaf buds have developed. So the plant is definitely alive. Now I guess we will just have to wait and see what happens next spring but we'll be popping the plant into the greenhouse over winter to give it a better chance - it deserves it.

This plant seems to have been in aestivation* - wonder if it was the drought conditions and the fact that we had given up on it and not given it any water. Maybe the rain broke the dormancy. Anyway the will to live was obviously strong!

As for the plant at the allotment - well that is definitely dead - I think - but maybe I shouldn’t throw it on the compost heap just yet. Well you never know do you?

*opposite of hibernation i.e. sleep through summer


  1. Figs are amazing! I had no idea that they 'hibernate' in summer some times, how interesting!

  2. We hadn't either Phoebe - until this one did! I don't know whether this is usual for them or not!

  3. I wouldn't give up on the one at the allotment yet, you never know. This year's weather has certainly done weird things to plants.

  4. Just shows you should never give up on a plant.

  5. I think that you have "The Little Fig that Could"! That's very interesting. My father in-law has a fig tree and it has never hibernated in the summer.

  6. It's still in its pot, Jo but unlike the one in the garden the stems are brown and brittle so I don't hold out much hope!

    Indeed it does VH

    I think it was a combination of a bad winter followed by a really dry spring/summer Robin. Apparently plants sometimes do this but it's the first time I have seen it.

  7. I've been toying with the idea of getting a fig tree. The only thing putting me off has been identifying a good place to put it, but your post has reminded me that the best way to grow figs is in a container - which, as you indicate, can be re-located if conditions so dictate. They like to be pot-bound or at least very closely restrained, I understand.

  8. It's always amazing me at how resilient nature can be...but I think you are right to put them in the greenhouse this may not stand another year in the freezing cold and we are predicted the same temperatures this year at the moment. As for the one up the allotment...i think you should over winter that one in the greenhouse too...just is case!!

  9. I think they can get very large too Mark if planted in open ground.

    Tanya, the one at the plot was grown by our plot neighbour from seeds taken from a bought fig so it could be a less hardy variety than the Brown Turkey which we bought as a plant but I won't throw it on the compost heap just yet - it may sprout from the base.

  10. A very determined plant! The fruit does grow very fast.

  11. Love it - just when you thought it was dead, ta da! I'm glad, they are such lovely plants. ANd don't you just love it when a plant comes back from apparent death? We have one we were given by a relative, who had grown it from a cutting. I must admit that I bung it in the greenhouse over winter just in case. No little figs yet, but there again it is very small still. Your experience gives me hope that one day ours will produce fruit too. Yum...

  12. It was determined Diana - I couldn't quite believe my eyes at first.

    We have never had any figs mature to edible stage yet, Janet but who knows after this performance?

  13. Plants can be so surprising. Maybe the one on the allotment will make a come back too. Kelli

  14. Patience often repays in gardening. But how strange that the fruit buds appeared first - perhaps a survival mechanism.

  15. Very nice blog

  16. Doesn't nature have a lovely way of throwing these surprises at us!

  17. It really does, Jome. The warm weather over the last few days has really got the leaf buds opening - poor thing must think it's spring so is in for a shock.


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