The Fig is hardly an everyday fruit. We do not see it in the majority of gardens; we see it only in the few. This is doubtless rather due to its want of perfect hardiness than to lack of appreciation. The man who samples a Grizzly Bourjassotte Fig just as it is gathered, luscious and mellow, from the tree, usually turns up his eyes in a sublime ecstasy, and wants more - a great deal more.
When there is accommodation for growing Figs under glass these delicacies are at command; moreover, it is quite easy to get two crops of them in a year. But if there is no glass, and outdoor culture or none at all presents itself as an alternative, it is necessary to choose a sheltered spot, and be satisfied with one crop. A healthy Fig is sometimes seen in the angle of a greenhouse wall, or some other warm and sheltered spot, even in the North of England; but the plant is not really hardy, and there is no certainty of keeping it through a hard winter unless it is protected. The best thing is to remove the growths from the wall early in winter, pack them together in a bundle, and fasten a mat round them.
When once it has made itself at home in a corner that it likes, a Fig tree needs very little attention. It will grow and fruit industriously. The knife will have to be called into requisition sometimes, but mainly to keep it from growing out of bounds. Nevertheless, it is just as well to know the fruiting habit of the plant, in case indoor culture has to be resorted to. Even in the case of outdoor trees there is a point which sometimes creates inquiry. This is with respect to the second crop of fruit, which is often seen on the trees in autumn. Most people watch the fruit through the winter with tender solicitude, in the full belief that it will swell and ripen in the spring. It is very rarely that it does so. It almost always falls off when the sap begins to flow freely.
In ordinary circumstances the Fig bears its fruit on the ripened wood of the previous year, the fruit that forms on the new wood falling off as stated.
When, however, the plants have glass protection this new-wood fruit matures. While, therefore, the young wood on outdoor trees may be thinned out when very thick, or the shoots disbudded, and the small, late-formed fruit on the shoots which are left picked off in autumn, the young wood on indoor trees may be retained as far as possible without overcrowding, and the fruit that shows allowed to remain. Some amount of finger and thumb work is necessary with pot trees, otherwise they would become rampant. The short, stubby side shoots may be left alone, but the extension shoots may be stopped at the sixth leaf if thickly placed. Laterals will probably push as a result, but except for those at the base of the leader they will not need stopping. The first stopping encourages the production of fruit.
A soil of sound loam, with an admixture of mortar rubbish, suits Figs. I deprecate the use of manure. The tree is gross enough in all conscience, and manure only makes it worse. Plenty of water must be given during the growing season, and the cultivator must be careful not to let his plants suffer from drought while the first crop is swelling in spring, or the fruit will fall.
If an amateur wants one variety of Fig to grow in the garden he should choose Brown Turkey; if he wants two he should add White Marseilles. There are better flavoured varieties than Brown Turkey, such, for instance, as Grizzly Bourjassotte, White Ischia, and Negro Largo, but these should be reserved for indoors.
A, portion of branch: a, previous season's wood, on which the fruit, if any, is produced on outdoor trees; b, continuation of branch growth, commonly called an extension shoot; c, side growths trained in in case of tree extending and space admitting; d, short side shoot, usually called a natural spur.
B, upright growing branch as in that of a fun-trained tree, or a bush or pyramid, central or leading growth of a branch, showing pinching: e, leading growth; f, side shoots; g, short stubby shoots, or socallal spurs; h, laterals not stopped; i, laterals pinched to one leaf.
A, characteristic branch: a, leader with fruit in various stages of development; b, side shoot that has not been stopped, with the fruits larger than a Hazel Nut removed, and those from the size of a Pea to that of a
Hazel Nut retained for producing the first and only crop another season; c, side shoot that had all the incipient Figs larger than a Hazel Nut carefully rubbed off early in September, causing young fruit to form at joints; d, side shoot pinched at sixth good leaf, not counting basal ones, with young fruit ranging in size from that of a Pea to three parts full grown; e, side shoot stopped at sixth good leaf and large incipient Figs removed by middle of September, with Fig buds formed at joints: 1, figs to be retained; 2, fruit to be rubbed off; 3, join's from which large fruit has been removed in September.
B, bearing shoot: f large fruit (second crop) that seldom ripens in this country and to be removed, as it is usually damaged by autumn frosts, or falls in the spring or early summer; a, small fruit to be retained for the first and only crop (except in the case of very early varieties against south walls in the South of England and in unusually hot seasons).
C, bearing shoots after removing large incipient fruits: h, terminal wood bud; i, small fruit developing in following season into ripe Figs during August and September; j, joints from which large incipient fruits have been removed.