If you are looking for a small, decorative tree for your garden, you might consider the Ficus carica edible fig tree. It has an exotic appearance, a graceful shape, bears delicious fruit, and will not overwhelm its space or its neighbors. It is mentioned in the Bible and other ancient texts and thrives in many different zones and soils.
Figs do not grow very tall, with about nineteen feet being the average. They take a few decades to reach this sort of height, and young trees bear long before they get very large or cast a dense shade. Their branches and deeply-lobed leaves are very decorative and distinctive, so they are attractive even during the first year you plant them. Large fig trees are beautiful because of the pale, smooth bark of their branches, so pruning is seldom either necessary or desirable. The natural shape of the tree is extremely graceful.
The trees will grow in light or partial shade, but full sun is best if you want abundant fruit. The figs, green or brownish purple, are delicious and come twice during the summer season. Actually what is called the fruit is really part of the stem, but whatever it is, it is memorable. Since fresh figs do not last very long after being picked, the best way to get this delicacy is to grow it in your own garden.
People who live in temperate zones can grow figs successfully outdoors. These trees – some say shrubs – like deep, rich soil but grow and bear happily in dry, sandy soils and in rocky, poor soils. They send roots deep into the ground and can find water underground, which makes them remarkably drought tolerant. From the mountains of Virginia to the sand hills of North Carolina and on south, figs have become favorite additions to family orchards and gardens.
Another fabulous thing about figs is that deer, those voracious marauders that eat almost anything (especially what you most want them to leave alone) do not like figs. People say that in times of severe drought deer will eat anything, but you can be sure that your figs will be among the last plants to go. This feature alone makes them truly valuable.
Propagation is easy if you want to turn one tree into many. Cuttings thrive when started in sand and kept moist over the first two years of life. Low-hanging branches can be pegged to the soil and rooted. Just separate the rooted branch off the parent plant, replant it and keep it well-watered, and you’ll have a new, fairly mature plant almost instantly.
Many varieties of the common fig do not even need to be pollinated – only one kind of wasp does this task – and many are hardy to areas with occasional drastic dips in temperature. The Brown Turkey variety has both of these traits and produces an abundance of delicious fruit as well.
Look for Ficus carica in nurseries, garden centers, and catalogs. They are not even very expensive. Fun to grow, very attractive, and very hardy, this immigrant from the Near East is worth having in your yard.