Big dreams for Figs Garden Center |

Big dreams for Figs Garden Center

Whenever a seedling pokes its head above ground for the first time, it inspires anticipation about what it will grow into. Similarly, when a new nursery opens in an already competitive market, you wonder how it will blossom.

Happily, the future looks good for Fig’s Garden Center, which has been rejuvenated and open to the public at 10324 Combie Road for just over two months. And in that short time, motorists headed off Highway 49 for Lake of the Pines or Bear River High School have been treated to a particularly colorful sight as a result of work by manager Robb Slam.

And this is only the beginning. On the drawing board for its five-year program are plans for a two-story office with a small delicatessen (a combination of flowers and food often seen in Europe) and a wine cellar in the hillside. Also in the dreaming stage are plans for a gazebo entrance on the hill and guided tours of display gardens.

At the moment, however, Slam is the only full-time employee at the nursery, assisted on weekends by part-time help, primarily for watering.

The brain child of owner Ron Fig and his son, Leslie, the full-service location also deals heavily in supplying rock, sand and soil amendments through a separate business.

Ironically, it was that part of the business that first ignited Slam’s interest in ornamental horticulture.

“I was a firefighter after graduating from high school,” he recalls, “and while I was spending some time at Lake Tahoe, I met my wife. She wouldn’t move to Chico with me, so I moved to Auburn with her and since there were no firefighter job openings, the truck driving job here was the first one I found. That was 15 years ago.”

Then the nursery closed due to a land-use dispute with a neighbor who was then a Nevada County supervisor, and Slam went on to get a degree in ornamental horticulture and business management through Sierra College. Since that time, he’s worked at both the wholesale and retail level, including working with High Hand Nursery in Loomis, gaining extensive landscaping experience in Lake of the Pines with Bushnell Gardens, and then specializing as a salesmen for nursery products from the Bay Area to Reno.

“We’re not specializing in any one area at this time,” he explains, “because that comes with time. We’re new and want to grow and see what the demands of the market may be. We carry the rocks, garden pavers, sod and garden products, and we don’t know yet which one will sell more. Right now we’re finding out we sell more perennials and trees than shrubs, so we’re constantly adjusting the mix to do that. We do a lot of work for customers ourselves or refer them to independent contractors for such things as building ponds or large-scale tree planting.”

“The philosophy I like to adopt is that we’ll go first rate on everything. We’re not cheaper than other outlets but we have some plants you won’t find everywhere, and at reasonable prices. We’re very strict on accepting plants from our suppliers and try to bring in plants that I’m familiar with, but not everyone in this area is, such as blue spiderworts, with blue foliage and a blue flower. We pull our plants from Canada to Southern California. And in our display area we have things planted in full sun that you don’t normally see there – to show people that it’s possible.”

Looking around at his handiwork, Slam smiles.

“I don’t know if the Figs knew what they were getting themselves into when they hired me. I’m having a good time!”


Dick Tracy is an award-winning garden writer and photographer, a master gardener and former president of the Foothills Horticulture Society. You can write him in care of The Union, 464 Sutton Way, Grass Valley, 95945.

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