Tuesday, March 09, 2010

The Fig: The Unofficial Carroll Gardens Backyard Tree




Carroll Gardens Florist at 373 Court Street had three small fig trees for sale in front of its storefront as I passed by yesterday. Though the 60 degree temperature of the last few days seemed perfect for gardening, I was not quite ready yet to start working in my garden. But, I must say, I was tempted to purchase one those little fig trees.

You see, for decades, the fig was the unofficial tree of this Italian neighborhood.

When my husband and I first moved into our house more than 20 years ago, we had a huge fig in our backyard. Back then, most Carroll Gardens yards seemed to have one. Ours produced an amazing amount of fruit every summer, way more than we could consume ourselves and we were able to share the surplus with our friends. Later, our kids set up a little stand in front of the house to sell little baskets of them for a few cents.

Our Italian neighbor, Joseph, seemed to love the tree as much as we did. An avid gardener, Joseph spent nearly every spring and summer day in his yard, lovingly tending his 50 tomato plants by loosening the dirt around them with a fork.
Joseph had three small fig trees in his own garden. They were all offspring of ours. However, they lacked its vigor and did not produce the same abundance of fruit.

In the fall, my husband would wrap our tree's branches one by one to protect them from the cold. The 'mummy' tree survived many harsh winters and grew twice as big in ten years.
But then, we became complacent and neglected to wrap and protect it. It survived one winter, then two, but it did not make it through the blizzard of 1996.

That spring, I waited and waited to see green shoots, but the branches stayed bare. By May, Joseph looked over the fence and looked skeptical.

"Itsa dead" he told me.
"Are you sure, Joseph?" I asked.
"Itsa dead," he said again. " Forgetaboutit"

We waited another month, but eventually, we had to agree with Joseph's diagnosis.
With a heavy heart, we cut down the tree. In its place, we planted a Crape Myrtle. It just seemed easier to deal with.

But I do miss it. A Carroll Gardens garden just needs a fig tree.

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lad1818 said...

Buy it!

I grew up in Queens and my Italian neighbors had a fig tree they wrapped in the winter. I didn't have a clue what it was at the time.

Now in CA fig trees are abundant, and of course, unwrapped.

If I had a yard, you bet I'd have one.

Matthew said...

Let us praise the fig trees of Brooklyn.