Ficus Outside the Tropics
I recently spotted a two story tall fiddle leaf fig in between two buildings in Orange Park Florida, zone 9a. The more exposed branches were nipped by the 20F freezes, making it look similar to salt pruned trees growing along the beach.
There are even some large ficus growing at the Jacksonville Zoo and Ravine Gardens State Park!
At the Jacksonville Zoo, when you have just entered past the ticket booths, there are these walled plantings of palms and other tropicals to your left and right, and to the right is what looks to be a banyan or strangler fig, complete with aerial roots. There are also a couple I've seen growing vinelike at Ravine Gardens State Park in Palatka, just as you descend the stone stairs into the ravine.
One of the most exciting parts of my hikes in South Florida is an encounter with the magnificent Ficus Aurea, or strangler fig. Depending on what your source is, they can range into Brevard county, or anywhere all the way up to Ponce Inlet, just south of Daytona Beach!
I love the way the aerial roots wrap around palm trunks and other obstacles (sometimes buildings) and form intricate shapes of webbing and melted forms, as if the ficus melted and solidified around its "host plant". Though they're not parasitic, they do outcompete for light and nutrients and eventually overpower the unfortunate plant in its tangled grasp. Here's a link to an excellent article on banyans.
That "Angkor Wat" look is very appealing to me, as it embodies the savage and graceful struggle that plays out in the rainforest every day. I have no illusions about their potential for damage when placed too close to structures, but I would really love to someday grow a strangler fig or a banyan in a container at least, planted among rocks and other plants for the roots to fuse around. Since banyan forming ficus trees are undesirable in residential areas of South Florida, they're not easy to find on sale. (Ps: If you have any seeds, seedlings or rooted cuttings of a banyan or strangler fig I'll trade you!)
Back in July Danger Garden posted an amazing photo of a common fig tree grown as a banyan in Oregon.
Isn't that cool? I may consider doing that with my own fig tree, maybe air layering the branches or mounding the soil and unearthing the exposing roots every so often.
Be sure to tell me about your ficus experiences! I also have a thread going on at Gardenweb.
I Survived the Freezes!
5 Ways to Fight Cold Damage
How to Keep Tropical Flair Through Winter