My obsessions come and go with gardening and life, and there's one that comes back reliably: creeping fig. This little vine, also known as climbing fig, or Ficus pumila, first got a hold on me during my visits to Savannah and Charleston in the 1970s after my first move to Georgia.
I'd walk through neighborhoods in these charming old Southern cities, admiring the pre-Civil War mansions colorfully, elegantly dressed, and my eye always lingered especially on the fig vines that creeped up, down and all around brick walls. (Thinking of those walls years later, I would grow creeping fig in a container, letting it creep up a stone backsplash behind the kitchen sink.)
I left Georgia for most of the 1980s, putting my fig thoughts on hold while chasing news in the nation's capital. On my second move to Atlanta, bringing that ol' obsession with me, I planted a creeping fig in the 1990s, hopeful that it would crawl to the top of the 8-foot wall surrounding my back garden. I drew inspiration and, like thousands of others, found peace, quiet and art just sitting for a spell in a church's small Memory Garden designed by the famed landscape architect Edith Henderson. A wall in this garden was covered with creeping fig, a sea of tranquility.
As my little plant neared the top of the Atlanta garden wall, Lyn and I retired from our day jobs and in 2001 moved to Connecticut, where I planted another fig, protecting this tender plant from the cold by putting it under a vent pushing out warm air from the hot water heater.
Two images show the little fig's mighty struggle, green and thriving during summer, then dying back in winter, eventually conquering the hard-won height of about 18 inches after half a decade.
Back in Georgia, I again have planted creeping fig. Three little plants went in during the fall and continue to climb even after several blasts of temperatures in the 20s.
They'll have to climb about 12 feet to reach the top of the brick portions on the front of the house here in Marietta – which means they have more than 11 feet to go. Looking forward to seeing the baby plants creep to the summit, every time I leave and enter the house I check their progress. Obsessively.