An odoriferous houseguest

The ad in the catalogue was tempting: attractive foliage and good fruits guaranteed in time.

Whatever else may follow about the fig plant, it has indeed proved a better provider than my pathetic lemon (though in all fairness the few lemons I do get are huge and sweet). The last fig harvest, on the other hand, produced over a dozen succulent fruits plus a few I think were grabbed by Minor before I could get to them.

For its good points, however, there is a major disadvantage to keeping a fig tree in the house: it reeks strongly of the part of the cat nobody wants to keep around (even the cat).

Why didn’t the lovely advertisement include a warning?

The Internet, while certainly discouraging, never mentions the smell. Could I possibly have a bad offshoot? I doubt it. I just think no one wants to talk about it. ‘Cept me.

I know of someone who has a fig growing in his back yard and I’m told they’ll survive to fifteen degrees. Maybe New Jersey is that much milder. It definitely wouldn’t survive a winter outside here. (Hmmm. A tempting thought.) Actually, like so many of the houseplants including that lemon it’s much happier when it can be out-of-doors. Naturally, so am I.

I read now they tell me that it is a poor houseplant because it tends to grow too leggy. You mean when it hits the ceiling and has to be dramatically cut back?

It also turns out to be deciduous. (And I just figured I’d been doing something to displease it.) Inside, it may not drop ALL the leaves, just half and look like it wants to shed the rest. I do not need a six foot naked tree. (Or naked anything of that size, for that matter.) Christmas is long past and the decorations put away for months to come.

I turn to my go-to gardener of yore, Thalassa Cruso. (Does anyone remember her hysterical shows on television? She had to be the Julia Childs, if not even funnier, of planthood-dom.)

Thalassa, it seems, was wise enough to never bring a fig indoors. It would be grouped, were it there, with other ficus as plants that can grow us out of house and home. She recommends beheading if one can stand living with that sad appearance afterward. I prefer doing that immediately after pushing it outdoors. It’s still ungainly but a little farther from view.

So I rant and I rave. Especially for the weekly watering when I must get close enough to get a good noseful.

From across the room it’s not bad, pretty much embedded for the time being with the neighboring rubber plant, another problem (no odor, but no food coming from there either). The shedding is over and the branches are covered with ten-inch leaves, rather welcome in this bleak season. I rise to count the bounty and am disappointed to find only five, four of those grouped together on a single branch.

Glancing around, I see the spindly avocado I so proudly grew from a seed. Another four inches and it will have reached the ceiling.

Talk about time to wield the ax! First things first.

Susan Crossett is a Cassadaga resident. Send comments to