Gilbey

Best Christmas Gift Ever

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Sorry, be forewarned, long and possibly boring family feel good post.......

 

My fathers side of the family is 100% Italian. My great grandfather came to America sometime around the turn of the century with his young bride and some humble belongings. They settled in New Brunswick and had a family. In my earliest memories I recall going to my great grandparents' house on Sundays for meals. In their backyard was the biggest fig tree I have ever seen. For the record I was probably 5 or 6 years old, so maybe it wasn't THAT big ;) . There are conflicting stories as to the origin of the tree. My uncle insists the tree was hand carried from Italy when my great grandfather immigrated to the US. My father insists it was bought locally. Either way, at that time, even if it was bought locally it may very well have been a tree from Italy stock.  

 

I didn't really think about that fig tree much as I got older. 25 years ago, when my wife and I bought our first house here in NJ, my uncle gave me a cutting from his fig tree in PA. His tree came from my great grandfather's tree. I thought it was pretty cool, and I planted it and cared for it, but the second winter it died. I was disappointed at the time, but being young and carefree, I didn't think much of it. It didn't seem important. At the time it wasn't. 

 

Fast forward to 2019. My uncle is in his 90's now, and he doesn't get around much these days. He's moved a few times, and now lives in a small home in PA in a community where things are taken care of for him. Much to my amazement, my father showed up the week before Christmas with a fig tree, a tree grown from a cutting of my great grandfather's tree that my uncle somehow got from the PA house where he used to live. I have no idea how he even managed to do it, but he's always been a "resourceful" kinda guy, so I shouldn't be all that surprised. 

 

It's not much, just a stick right now, but it is without question the most cherished gift I can ever recall receiving. I feel like I got a second chance at carrying the life of this tree onward. In my 50's now I place much greater value on family, tradition, and our origins. Silly as it seems, this fig tree represents a very special connection for me. 

 

The tree has a spot on the side of my house near my other fig trees. It's southern exposure with good wind protection. My other local figs have grown well in this same soil. I don't wrap my bigger trees, but this year I will wrap this one. I hope it flourishes into an amazing specimen in the years to come and is bountiful with fruit. And, God willing, when I am 90 years old I hope I can pass it down to my children and grandchildren. 

IMG_2078.jpg.026d2dc0e0426eb1dcaa08945ce2f4d5.jpg

 

Thanks for reading. 


Alan 

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Posted (edited) · Report post

Nice. There's tons of fig trees around here, Hoboken & Jersey City were, and in areas still are, heavily Italian. Almost all are identical. My personal theory is most of the cuttings brought over and planted died, and everyone took cuttings from the ones that could survive the climate. About a decade ago I filched a cutting from a branch overhanging a fence and planted my own. It did really well for while, 3 trunks like 5" in diameter, then like 4 years ago every fig in the area was killed to the ground. Since then it keeps dying back most years, even though it can reach 8' in a season.  Once it gets a certain size they're much harder to kill, they'll just keep coming back from the roots like weeds. 

 

These are  large green/purple figs. I've only seen 1 other variety like twice, a smaller black fig. The local B&T, Moe's, has one on his driveway, but he's selling out. I'm tempted to take some cuttings, even though I don't have anywhere to plant it! The developers will definitely destroy it.

 

 

 

fig.PNG.281dc4ae91eee238f7a8f27586d55c6f.PNG

 

My 'family tree' is a Golden Rain Tree, not very common around here, but apparently an invasive down south. There was one on the front lawn of the house on Long Island where I grew up, and my mom planted a seedling from it in the lawn of their weekend, then retirement house, in Mattituck on the N Fork.  When we bought here 22 years ago I took a seedling from that lawn and planted it in the back of the yard, it's now quite a big lovely tree.

Edited by gellfex

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^^^ What he said  ^^^^

 

And no apology ever necessary for any post like that Alan. 

I've ben fascinated by heritage, lineage, genealogy,  and such since I was young. 

 

My mothers parents were "off the boat" from Ireland about a hundred years ago. Settled in NYC and stayed.  My fathers parents came about a hundred years before that,  from Wales and Britain itself . They went west across the new land.  

 

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Great stories here.

 

My grand parents and parents from Portugal to this day still have fig trees there. I love them and have always wanted to plant one here in NJ but don't know if they'd survive our harsh winter/s.

 

@gellfex the picture of the fig in your post is from your tree?

I'd be interested in planting a fig tree but would need some guidance on proper care.

 

Thank you!

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31 mins ago, layer8 said:

 

@gellfex the picture of the fig in your post is from your tree?

I'd be interested in planting a fig tree but would need some guidance on proper care.

Yes, of course that's my fig! I'd be happy to give you cuttings if I get enough wood surviving the winter, they're not very hard to root. When my fig was happier and I had tons of live prunings I'd cut them into 10" pieces and give them away our local farmers market. They can grow like crazy, after pruning it could easily grow from 5' to 12' in one season.  Once I pruned a low lying branch in midsummer, and simply stuck an 18" piece in a container where I was growing eggplants. It rooted, and I gave it away to someone. 

 

FWIW I read there's a recent variety called the "Chicago Hardy Fig", supposed to be even more cold tolerant.  A site called figs4fun is my bible for fig propagation and care.  Grapes are a lot of fun and reward too. I have 2 huge vines of seedless table grapes. 

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Regarding fig trees there is lots of info on the web. Some guys insist you wrap them. Dig around and you will find a dozen different ways to wrap them. I did with my current trees the first couple years, but I haven't the last 8 and they have been fine. I'm in west central NJ and it's a non-issue. My trees were sourced from a guy 10 miles up the road from me. Maybe find someone who has trees for sale local to you? Or get a couple cuttings and root them yourself? I would avoid getting trees from a warmer clime than where you live. 

I do think location is important. Mine our on the south side of my house where in winter it's a little warmer, and the house protects them from the dominant north/northwest winter winds. 

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1 hour ago, Gilbey said:

Regarding fig trees there is lots of info on the web. Some guys insist you wrap them. Dig around and you will find a dozen different ways to wrap them. I did with my current trees the first couple years, but I haven't the last 8 and they have been fine. I'm in west central NJ and it's a non-issue. My trees were sourced from a guy 10 miles up the road from me. Maybe find someone who has trees for sale local to you? Or get a couple cuttings and root them yourself? I would avoid getting trees from a warmer clime than where you live. 

I do think location is important. Mine our on the south side of my house where in winter it's a little warmer, and the house protects them from the dominant north/northwest winter winds. 

I think the most important thing is getting something that's already surviving locally. That's surprising you've had no trouble, like I said, a few years back ALL the figs in the NY Metro area died to the ground, there were news articles about it. I have never wrapped mine, but these last few years of dieback have gotten me thinking about it. I don't net the tree either, and after a while the birds get to the figs before they're what I would consider ripe. Farming is HARD!

 

Another interesting 'fig fact': its very difficult to identify species. Apparently they react so strongly to local conditions, what the French call terroir, that you can't say for certain what fig it is you're looking at.

Edited by gellfex

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On 1/7/2020 at 8:36 AM, Gilbey said:

Sorry, be forewarned, long and possibly boring family feel good post.......

 

My fathers side of the family is 100% Italian. My great grandfather came to America sometime around the turn of the century with his young bride and some humble belongings. They settled in New Brunswick and had a family. In my earliest memories I recall going to my great grandparents' house on Sundays for meals. In their backyard was the biggest fig tree I have ever seen. For the record I was probably 5 or 6 years old, so maybe it wasn't THAT big ;) . There are conflicting stories as to the origin of the tree. My uncle insists the tree was hand carried from Italy when my great grandfather immigrated to the US. My father insists it was bought locally. Either way, at that time, even if it was bought locally it may very well have been a tree from Italy stock.  

 

I didn't really think about that fig tree much as I got older. 25 years ago, when my wife and I bought our first house here in NJ, my uncle gave me a cutting from his fig tree in PA. His tree came from my great grandfather's tree. I thought it was pretty cool, and I planted it and cared for it, but the second winter it died. I was disappointed at the time, but being young and carefree, I didn't think much of it. It didn't seem important. At the time it wasn't. 

 

Fast forward to 2019. My uncle is in his 90's now, and he doesn't get around much these days. He's moved a few times, and now lives in a small home in PA in a community where things are taken care of for him. Much to my amazement, my father showed up the week before Christmas with a fig tree, a tree grown from a cutting of my great grandfather's tree that my uncle somehow got from the PA house where he used to live. I have no idea how he even managed to do it, but he's always been a "resourceful" kinda guy, so I shouldn't be all that surprised. 

 

It's not much, just a stick right now, but it is without question the most cherished gift I can ever recall receiving. I feel like I got a second chance at carrying the life of this tree onward. In my 50's now I place much greater value on family, tradition, and our origins. Silly as it seems, this fig tree represents a very special connection for me. 

 

The tree has a spot on the side of my house near my other fig trees. It's southern exposure with good wind protection. My other local figs have grown well in this same soil. I don't wrap my bigger trees, but this year I will wrap this one. I hope it flourishes into an amazing specimen in the years to come and is bountiful with fruit. And, God willing, when I am 90 years old I hope I can pass it down to my children and grandchildren. 

IMG_2078.jpg.026d2dc0e0426eb1dcaa08945ce2f4d5.jpg

 

Thanks for reading. 


Alan 

 

1 hour ago, Gilbey said:

Regarding fig trees there is lots of info on the web. Some guys insist you wrap them. Dig around and you will find a dozen different ways to wrap them. I did with my current trees the first couple years, but I haven't the last 8 and they have been fine. I'm in west central NJ and it's a non-issue. My trees were sourced from a guy 10 miles up the road from me. Maybe find someone who has trees for sale local to you? Or get a couple cuttings and root them yourself? I would avoid getting trees from a warmer clime than where you live. 

I do think location is important. Mine our on the south side of my house where in winter it's a little warmer, and the house protects them from the dominant north/northwest winter winds. 

kool stuff

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23 hours ago, gellfex said:

Yes, of course that's my fig! I'd be happy to give you cuttings if I get enough wood surviving the winter, they're not very hard to root. When my fig was happier and I had tons of live prunings I'd cut them into 10" pieces and give them away our local farmers market. They can grow like crazy, after pruning it could easily grow from 5' to 12' in one season.  Once I pruned a low lying branch in midsummer, and simply stuck an 18" piece in a container where I was growing eggplants. It rooted, and I gave it away to someone. 

 

FWIW I read there's a recent variety called the "Chicago Hardy Fig", supposed to be even more cold tolerant.  A site called figs4fun is my bible for fig propagation and care.  Grapes are a lot of fun and reward too. I have 2 huge vines of seedless table grapes. 

 

Thank you!

I'd definitely be interested and will do some research in the meantime.

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Gellflex

 

I have a Chicago hardy, but I am growing it in a 20 gallon container.  I move it into the garage for the winter. so I have not tested its hardiness.  I am thinking about planting a cutting to see what happens, but I would not put out much hope for it since it would be exposed to the Norht/North East winds of an open area exposed to an open salt water marsh.  If I loose the cutting not a big deal but the mother tree does a decent job of fruiting and the figs are like eating sugar.  

 

I also have a Violet De Bourdeaux that I have had no luck with.  It gets its figs late in the season and they never ripen, yet everything I read about them say they should be fine in NJ.  

 

Yes the birds are an issue.

 

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12 hours ago, 31BBert said:

Gellflex

 

I have a Chicago hardy, but I am growing it in a 20 gallon container.  I move it into the garage for the winter. so I have not tested its hardiness.  I am thinking about planting a cutting to see what happens, but I would not put out much hope for it since it would be exposed to the Norht/North East winds of an open area exposed to an open salt water marsh.  If I loose the cutting not a big deal but the mother tree does a decent job of fruiting and the figs are like eating sugar.  

 

I also have a Violet De Bourdeaux that I have had no luck with.  It gets its figs late in the season and they never ripen, yet everything I read about them say they should be fine in NJ.  

 

Yes the birds are an issue.

 

I find that's my problem when it has to recover from full dieback. I guess it puts too much of the season's energy into branches and leaves before turning it's attention to fruit.  Is your garage heated, or is it just the shelter that does the trick? How big do you let it get? Maybe I could try that with a cutting of that local black fig I mentioned.

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Garage is not heated, but it rarely drops below 40 degrees in the garage.  It is attached to the house and the sun is on the side heating it all day, plus the furnace is in the garage, so nothing freezes in it.  

 

It is about 4 feet tall.  The problem with growing in the pot is that the size gets limited, so fruit production is limited.  I am going to try a cutting in the spring in the ground and lets see what happens.  My Neighbor across the street had two trees for years outside with the same exposure and they never died back until last winter.  He did not get fruit last season so he dug them out.  He did not know what kind he had, all he knew was they were from cuttings from a tree that originally came from a tree from Italy.  The tree he got them from grew in an old Italian guys yard for years here in NJ.  

 

I start picking the Chicago Hardy fruits in mid August.  Weather here so far has been fairly mild this year, I only moved it into the garage last week and it has new buds on it already.  Heck we have some flowering trees starting to flower, they are all confused.

 

I remember my Grandmothers tree from when I was a kid.  My Uncle would wrap it for her every year.  Wish I had cuttings from that Tree.  

 

We rented a house in Wildwood NJ for a couple of years, they had a huge fig tree in the yard, never did anything to it and it never died back.  But the Ocean down there moderates the temperature so I could see that happening.  

 

Try the Pot, and take a look at a site called attainable-sustainable.  It is a .net site and he goes into growing in pots.

 

 

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Great read thanks for sharing. Please keep us updated on the tree's progress.

 

I had a buddy in high school. We hung out together, played sports. He was a year behind me in school. After I graduated we lost contact. We'd see each other now and then but like everything else we both / all got busy, school, work families. So fast forward to the mid 2000's we reconnected through FB. Mike got sick in 2015 and passed from brain cancer that metastasized from years earlier. His wife Dawn had his favorite plants removed after selling their home and one of them was an elephant ear. I received one of his bulbs and planted it in my garden and have grown it for the past few years and give the extra bulbs that come off the original to friends and family. It's nice to pass the love along.

 

 

 

 

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