The struggle with the big Ficus a modern day story of heroism

This post has an end of term feel about it as I have at last finished all my jobs before I start planting seeds in a few weeks. But don’t get complacent as this post includes the traditional battle of the big Ficus tree, whereby I try and cut back into shape my big Ficus tree, whilst it tries to generally, cut, maim and impale me. But hey ho its just another gardening adventure.

27th February 2022. Things I have been doing lately:

Dividing Fountain grass. Regular readers will remember that in my last post I told you how Cruella (my wife) had destroyed my Fountain grass seeds whilst I was away. As I explained last time, this left me no choice but to divide the plant as its centre has died. This is quite common in grasses and other clump forming plants like Iris, Agapanthus etc. The photo below shows the grass with its centre that will never grow again.

There’s a hole in my Fountain grass dear Lisa

If you have a plant that looks like this then you need to divide it as the centre will never grow back. There is a good part and a bad part of dividing plants. The good part if that by dividing you get more plants. The bad part is that it can be back breaking digging out an established large plant. Anyway on with how to do it.

Firstly you need to assemble all the tools you will need which will include the following:

  • A large metal lever
  • 2 forks
  • 2 spades
  • A saw
  • A wheelbarrow

The first item on the list, the large lever is a bonus. I don’t have one but my neighbour Bill who is a car mechanic kindly lent me his.

Start be clearing the area around the plant so that you have room to work. Then using your fork work your way around the plant, gently trying to lift the edges. Then using a spade and the large lever begin to attempt to lever the plant out. It is important that you try not to damage the roots; so go as deep under the plant as you can. Once you have the plant out and into your wheelbarrow (I needed Cruella’s help to lift it) then take it to your lawn or a similar area where the falling soil won’t be a nuisance. Next place two forks back to back in the centre of the plant and attempt to lever it apart, if you have a lever then use that as well. Once you have the plant basically divided, then use your saw to cut out the dead parts and to divide the plant into new manageable chunks. Try and make sure that you leave sufficient root on each part to allow the plant to regrow. The photos below tell the story. Click on each photo for a larger view.

Planting a peach tree cutting. If you have any tree cuttings that you have been growing over winter, then now is the time to get them in the ground. You can normally tell when a tree cutting is ready for planting out. Firstly it should have had a good year of growing in a pot and you should have gradually cut off side-shoots to develop a nascent trunk. Next it should be showing some leaf buds that have taken on a slightly “furry” look and feel.

When planting your new tree out, you will need a mixture of 50% compost and 50% soil from the hole you have dug. It is also helpful if you have some Mycorrizhal Fungi which helps stimulate root growth, this can be bought online. Sprinkle some of the fungi into the planting hole and then sprinkle some over the roots before planting. When you plant make sure that you gently, but firmly, tread down the soil around the planting ball. Finish by placing a stake at an angle across the bottom of the trunk to provide support in strong winds.

The photos below show my little peach tree being planted. Click on each photo for a larger view.

The titanic struggle with the big Ficus. To be honest given the damage that this tree has done to me over the years, I am sometimes tempted to misspell Ficus! Anyway if you have not been privy to this annual battle before, let me briefly give you the background. About 10 years ago I cut the central trunk out of this particular tree to create the attractive donut effect you see in some Spanish towns. Since that point I am obliged to prune the tree each year to keep its shape. The main problem is that the tree gets bigger every year, whilst I get smaller. The photo below shows the tree ready for its annual reshape.

It just oozes malevolence

The tree has always resented the indignity inflicted on it all those years ago, and consequently it has sought revenge ever since. I dread the annual reshaping as I know it will be painful. Over the years the tree has inflicted untold damage upon me, including: concussion, broken fingers, dramatic blood loss, and cuts and abrasions too numerous to mention.

I plan my approach carefully each year. I don’t sleep for weeks and when I do I have nightmares about the struggle ahead. I start by cutting underneath the tree to flatten the bottom all the way around. I then spend the rest of the first day reshaping the bottom half of the sides. Day two finds me on my platform reshaping the top part of the sides. By day three I am doing the really dangerous stuff; overreaching on a ladder to cut the top and then climbing into the centre to reshape the middle. The photos below show me in action. Click on each photo for a larger view.

Finally I thought I would treat you to some photos of my finished work. In the photos below you can see the Cheshire Cat safely back on his perch at the centre of the tree. Some avant garde photos taken by me lying under the tree; I have to take these quickly as if I lay there too long Cruella trys to bury me. Finally the tree in all its reshaped glory. Click on each photo for a larger view.

Author: spanishgarden

I live in both Spain and the UK and am a very keen gardener. I garden every day and enjoy sharing all the secrets that God allows us to discover in our gardens.

2 thoughts on “The struggle with the big Ficus a modern day story of heroism”

  1. Just last week, we installed about a dozen red fountain grass. Of course, they do not last as long as the green fountain grass. That is acceptable, since we can replace them later in that particular situation. I explained to the horticulturist who procured them that new plants can be installed directly into the bald spots as they eventually develop. Alternatively, plugs can be taken from the perimeters of maturing plants, to be plugged back into the bald spots, sort of like an old fashioned hair transplant, not to imply that you are familiar with such a procedure.


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