Fig Tree in Cleveland, Cut Back for Winter in album gardening

In Albums:Cleveland gardening trees

A fig tree planted up against a wall, cut back within a few feet of the ground, some leafless vines climbing the wall, and some grass and leaves on the ground

Nov 10th, 2002, by Alex Zorach

This photo shows a fig tree (Ficus carica) in Cleveland, Ohio. Fig trees are tough to grow in south-Central Pennsylvania, where I grew up, let alone in Northeast Ohio, where winter temperatures are substantially colder. But the heat and shelter of an urban area provides some protection, and the proximity to Lake Erie also provides moderating temperatures, allowing one to grow the less cold-hardy plants. This particular fig was planted in Little Italy, on a side street. It is planted near a wall which shelters it from wind. The neighborhood it is planted in is very densely built-up, which affords it a good amount of urban heat in the winter.

I had the opportunity to talk to the gardener responsible for caring for this fig, an older Italian man who was quite a skilled gardener. He explained to me that he cut this fig close to the ground, not completely, and that it would resprout in the spring and bear fruit each year. I periodically returned to see this plant at various times of year, and I was impressed: it not only survived each winter but grew vigorously, and indeed, bore numerous figs! This photo shows the fig after it has been cut back for the winter. Notice the bare vines climbing the wall, with a few boston ivy vines still clinging to their leaves: this late, in November, many plants have already lost their leaves, but the fig still shows mostly green leaves. Keep in mind, this fig is naturally a deciduous species.

If one can grow a fig tree in Cleveland, Ohio, I wonder what other plants could be grown far outside their normally suitable range. Now when I see fig trees growing in Philadelphia, I am slightly less impressed.