lilies and figs
May 12, 2011
Two of my favorite plants have shown up in my back-yard. The lily-of-the-valley rhizomes that I planted years ago and to which I’ve diligently adding to, have become a bed of green with white bells perfuming the west corner.
Yes, they are mid-spring flowers that disappear and never return until next May, but I love the scented whites and I cut the bells and bring them inside to my desk. They were one of the few spring flowers we would find in the woods of Northern Ontario. The broad leaves grew near the evergreens and finding the fragrant, white bells was proof of winter’s demise.
It took me a while to find a place for them in the back-yard, but when I added the raised beds on the north-west side, I needed something that would grow in the shade in the corner. And I remembered the lily-of-the-valley of those long ago forages into the Cambrian Shield.
My second favorite plant will produce fruit I’m ravenous for.
My fig plants are shrub-like with four or five stems. (They never make it into trees, because they can’t survive the Pennsylvania winters.) The cuttings came from my cousins in St. Catharines who smuggled the original cuttings into Canada from their family farm in Calabria. I brought them to Pittsburgh. Rose and Derrick have cuttings in suburban Detroit, Rick and Sarah have cuttings in nearby Wilkinsburg.
My plants are white figs. They are the early figs – the more rare and prized figs. Harvest will be late June, early July. (Rick/Sarah, Rose/Derrick have cuttings of the black figs my cousins brought over from Calabria. These are the more common and familiar figs and harvest in the fall.)
Some Fig Stories
-In Narragansett, my friend Tom was in charge of getting old Brother Leo from his greenhouse to Vespers. Tom remembers being told by our director ‘to make sure we don’t find Brother Leo facedown in a potted plant.’
Brother Leo had a huge fig tree that reached the roof of the greenhouse. He was very proud of it and I remember him showing it off to me. But he never offered me any figs.
Tom likes to remind me that Brother Leo offered him figs all the time. All I can say is that Tom never shared.
-In Calabria, Derrick has no shame about going into people’s gardens and picking the figs especially the ones that overhang into the road. Rose complains at him and I walk farther away. But once we round the corner, Rose and I demand that he share the figs he gathered.
-In Pittsburgh, Paul goes on and on about the alien looking plants that take up most of the side-yard, but never produce any figs. This year, the plants are loaded and I’m not sharing.