Louis Raymond experiments in his own gardens like

a mad scientist, searching out plants that most people have

never seen before & figuring out how to make them perform.- The Boston Globe

…Louis Raymond ensures that trees can grow in Brooklyn…

or just about any other place where concrete consumes

the dirt and skyscrapers shield the sunshine.- USA Today

 
 

NEW Trips to Take!

Myrtle's easy when the conditions are right.

 
 
 
 

NEW Plants to Try!

Louis tries to capture the exact words to describe the fleeting but deep pleasures to be found in these Summer-into-Autumn incredibles.

 
 
 
 

New Gardening to Do!

Allergic to bees? You can still have an exciting garden, full of flowers and color and wildlife.

 
 
 
 

Plant Profiles

Jolly Tiger fig

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The five-lobed leaves of fruiting figs are showy already—and now they're wildy colorful, too.  'Jolly Tiger' leaves are dotted and splashed with cream and yellow.

 

Some leaves are completely drenched in yellow. 

 

ficus-carica-jolly-tiger-blond-640

 

Even the fruit can be striped, splashed, and drenched.

 

ficus-carica-jolly-tiger-fruit-640

 

'Jolly Tiger' is barely hardy where I garden in Rhode Island, so I'm growing it in a pot.  Fig trees are happy in containers, so I may never get around to experimenting with growing my 'Tiger' right in the garden.  See "How to handle it" for the full range of options to grow fruiting figs far outside their usual hot-Summer / mild-Winter haunts.

 

 

Here's how to grow this colorful fruit tree:

 

Latin Name

Ficus carica 'Jolly Tiger'

Common Name

Jolly Tiger fig

Family

Moraceae, the Mulberry family.

What kind of plant is it?

Deciduous fruiting tree.

Hardiness

Zones 7 - 10.

Habit

Short- or even multi-trunked.  Often wider than tall.

Rate of Growth

Medium.

Size in ten years

Depending on the mildness of the climate, a bush or small tree to ten to fifteen feet tall and wide.

Texture

The large five-lobed leaves on this densely-foliaged plant create a unique texture.  The irregular but often extensive variegation increases this plant's vivid presence.

Grown for

its rarity:  There are millions of green-leaved fig trees, which are grown world-wide for their fruit.  And there are many variegates among the ornamental (and usually tropical or subtropical) figs.  'Jolly Tiger' is the only variegated fruiting fig.

 

its unique foliage, with five lobes symmetrically arrayed on leaves to six inches long or even larger.  Leaves can be splashed with yellow, striped with yellow, or entirely yellow.  Non-variegated branches sometimes appear, too.  

 

its fruit:  This is an edible fig.  In climates hot enough to ripen figs, 'Jolly Tiger' can be grown as a fruit tree not just an ornamental.  The fruit themselves are, so to speak, "variously variegated."

Flowering season

Spring into Summer: The flowers are as non-showy as possible: They are hidden inside the already-developing "fruit," which is actually a swollen hollow-ended stem, into which the fig wasp enters, via a tiny opening at the bottom of the "fruit," to do the pollination.  Many cultivars bear "fruit" without pollination.

Culture

Sun and heat in any decent soil. 

How to handle it

Figs flourish in-ground in almost any climate where Winter temperatures don't go below zero, but are so strongly associated with Mediterranean-style climates—long hot Summers and mild Winters—that it's a surprise to see figs in New York City, Hungary, and western Scotland.  Their foliage is so distinctive that they are worth growing purely as ornamentals; figs thrive in cool-Summer locales like Scotland, but ripen little fruit. 

 

If you provide some Winter protection, figs are easy to grow somewhat north of their usual hardiness range.  Trees can be wrapped in just about anything—old carpet, bubble wrap, tar paper—to reduce wind-chill.  Or the roots can be severed on one side, and the entire tree can be tipped to the opposite side almost to the ground, and covered with tarp, leaves, mulch, or soil. 

 

Or the trees can be grown as die-back shrubs.  They fruit on new stems as well as those from last year—and the new-stem crop is generally held to be better anyway—so you can mound a couple of wheelbarrows of soil or mulch around the base of the plant each Fall, remove it when Spring has truly arrived, and, after new sprouts have merge, cut the stems' dead tips back to just in front of them.  Provided your Summer is hot enough, and your site in full sun, you'll get figs by August. 

 

Or trees can be grown in pots and dragged into protection in Fall.  The trees are deciduous naturally, so don't mind at all sitting leafless and dormant in the garage or basement.

 

Figs also espalier easily, so if you're blessed with a south- or west-facing wall, it could be just the sun- and heat-trap that figs adore.  Put up a sheet of wind-baffle fabric for the Winter, which will cut down on cold-weather dieback even further.

 

'Jolly Tiger' gets all-green shoots occasionally, which you should prune off.  They grow much faster than the variegated shoots and would soon overwhelm them.  'Jolly Tiger', then, is the fig to keep at a small enough size that the entire plant is within easy pruning range. 

Downsides

As the "How to handle it" suggests, figs are about as cooperative as a woody plant can be when it comes to options for growing it even more widely than its native Zone 7 - 10 range.  Even so, millions of us garden in Zone 6 and below, where growing any fig at all takes more work than growing any "woody"—fruiting or ornamental—that's hardy without protection.

Variants

There are many cultivars of fruiting figs, with a wide range of fruit sizes, colors, flavors, productivity, and, to a degree, hardiness.  (But even "hardy" fruiting figs aren't realistic plants to grow unprotected below Zone 7.)  There are also cultivars whose leaves have more lobes, e.g., 'Ice Crystal'.  Don't miss the spectacular "lace-leaf" espaliered fig at Sissinghurst.  I haven't yet been able to locate 'Ice Crystal' in a North American supplier. 

Availability

'Jolly Tiger' used to be available from www.AsiaticaNursery.com, which, darn it, has closed down.  I don't know of a current source, but I live in hope.

Propagation

Figs are typically easy to root from cuttings in Spring.  They're also easy to grow from seed, but cultivars (including 'Jolly Tiger') wouldn't come true.

Native habitat

Ficus carica is native from the Mediterranean into the warm areas of Central Asia.  'Jolly Tiger' originated in Japan.

 
 
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