Figs In the Northern Winter

| 11/9/2015 1:22:00 PM

Andrew Weidmanfruit closeup

Why do we gardeners love a challenge? What is it about us, that when we read ‘hardy to zone 7’ or ‘8a’ or whatever, we immediately think, ‘Oh really? That can’t mean me. Not here. I can grow that, surely that can’t apply to my backyard?”

I’m guilty. I live in USDA zone 6a, and I have my own personal grocery list of failed attempts at fooling Mother Nature. I’ve tried locating winter-hardy rosemary strains. Low-bush blueberries fascinate me. Bell peppers? I’ve ‘perennialized’ them in two-gallon pots in the basement; what a pain. Mandevilla vine? I’ve tried to perennialize that one, with zero success. But my biggest challenge, and one I share with many, is that most elusive and ancient of fruit: the fig.


You see, most sources list figs as winter hardy in zone 7 -11. Zone 7, that’s only one zone south of me; no big deal, right? My sister lives in Southern Virginia, and she has a fig growing in her horse paddock, no care, no attention. How hard can it be?

Two things: first, they are hardy to zone 7, not reliably hardy to zone 7. That one little qualifier means so much in a particularly harsh winter. Second, in the depths of a late January night, the difference of five degrees becomes huge. I mean huge.