Fascinating excerpt from a new book about being the current head gardener of Lambeth Palace, where the Archbishop of Canterbury stays when he is in London. Key paragraph:
If you read anything about the Palace it mentions Cardinal Pole’s enormous fig tree, which was originally brought to the site in 1556 by the last Roman Catholic Archbishop. It’s an extraordinary plant to inherit. We get great crops, the figs are thin-skinned and taste like pure honey. I prune the plant every five years so you can see the great hall behind it, which is an amazing building. The first year we pruned the fig it was right out onto the tarmac and about thirty feet high…. We could see the vigour of the plant, so I pruned it back even harder. I probably left about 50 percent of growth and then they all gasped! But that was me getting my confidence, thinking, ‘OK, it’s not going to die’. And we saw it respond amazingly. I’ve learned to propagate the fig as well, which is a fairly tricky operation. We’ve sent them all around the world; the Pope was given one at the Vatican. He was presented with one of my cuttings.
Imagine eating figs from a tree planted in the 16th century.