The springtime ritual of unwrapping the fig tree usually brings a sense of anticipation and excitement for Bruno Garofalo of Pittsburgh. He is especially eager to unwrap his two prize fig trees that he brought with him as small shoots from Italy in the lining of his coat in 1961. He buried them each fall until they became too large, and then he began to wrap them in layers of pink fiberglass insulation, foam padding, and large plastic tarps to keep out moisture and harsh winter wind. The video at the end of this post shows how he does this.
Upon unwrapping this spring, an unpleasant surprise greeted Bruno. For the first time in 53 years, his trees showed no signs of life.
Instead of appearing silver gray and supple with tiny emerging leaf buds, the upper branches were dry and brown, becoming even darker brown to black toward the tips.
Smaller branches were dry and brittle and snapped easily when bent.
Bruno was in disbelief that a tree protected so well didn’t survive the winter.
He inspected several of his other trees which he had decided not to wrap for the past several years because the winters were so mild. They showed no signs of life either.
He nicked this tree in several places to determine if any part was alive. This tree revealed only brown wood instead of the usual light green.
Bruno dug around the base looking for roots that may have survived.
He pulled up this root when he saw the tiny green leaves poking up out of the soil. This could be re-buried as is and will continue to grow or could be cut off at the base, retaining the new root fibers, then re-planted.
Upon close inspection of one of his wrapped trees he discovered a few tiny green buds. He will prune this tree heavily to just above the new growth.
The other wrapped tree revealed new shoots only around its base where dirt had been mounded up around the trunk during the winter. This tree he will cut to only a few inches above the ground, allowing one or two of the new shoots to grow into a new tree. If he lets all of the new shoots grow, they will develop into a multi-stemmed bush and will continue to send up more shoots each year.
To learn more about Bruno Garofalo click here.
For more in-depth training, consider attending one of our fig tree growing classes, “Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Growing Fig Trees”, offered periodically in several cities. Because of the devastating effect of the recent winter we have added information to the class about how to save and rejuvenate a fig tree that has been damaged by the cold. See the Events page for a location near you.