A fig that’s too big

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II had an e-mail from Alison who lives near Crowland last week. She says she bought a Brown Turkey fig a few years ago to plant against an unsightly wall at the back of her house.

It quickly did what she wanted, she says, covering the wall and producing masses of delicious figs, but it is now too large.

She tried cutting some bits off it recently, but it dripped a lot of sap and she’s afraid if she does any pruning, she’ll kill it.

Figs in modern gardens need to have their roots restricted, otherwise they make enormous trees in time.

The best way is to grow them in very large tubs, making sure they are always well watered and fed once growth has started to slow down. This way, you’ll get an attractive container shrub and plenty of figs.

You often see it recommended to plant in the ground and contain the roots with concrete slabs or similar. This is fine for a while, but I did just that when I planted my Brown Turkey thirty-odd years ago, and I got a nice wall shrub up the garage, with more fruit than we could cope with.

After about five years, however, the roots must have discovered joins in the sunken slab container, after which time, growth exploded and I was left with two alternatives – either to remove the fig (a monumental task) or enjoy the foliage and leave it where it was.

I opted for the latter, and now it is just an attractive foliage wall shrub. It gets pruned once or twice during the summer, which keeps it within bounds, but, of course, it never fruits, so if I want figs, I buy them! Alison will not kill her fig by even hard pruning if she wants to retain it – she can always buy another and grow it in a pot if she wants fruit.

One warning, though. Many of us are allergic to fig sap, so remember to cover up while the cuts are dripping, or keep an anti-histamine handy, and handle the prunings carefully. The cuts seal over in a matter of minutes.

I hope to see a lot of you on Sunday afternoon at Jubilee Park, Thackers Way, Deeping St James, where I’m presenting the awards at the dog show, and introducing my new lurcher, Maggie, to the world of dogs of all sorts and their owners. I expect the famous three-legged Devil’s Daughter, Faune, will insist on coming, too!