When my wife Shelley and I bought our first house, I was excited to finally have a yard. I had visions of a garden with fruit and vegetables.
Until that time, I had kept a fig tree alive for years. But I had no idea how to grow it and no suitable spot to keep a dormant fig tree over the winter. So the poor thing was gnarled and stunted. It looked like a bonsai and it never fruited.
It wasn't long before I rooted cuttings from my gnarled and stunted tree, eager to make more. I bought a couple of plants too.
That first house was a small, 1950s bungalow. With a small second washroom in the basement, it was a big step up in the world for a couple that had, until then, shared a single washroom.
ANYONE who has lived in an older home knows they come with surprises. The surprise for Shelley and me came the first autumn, when we realized the cold basement washroom had no heating.
As I pondered what to do about that frigid little room one morning, I realized that it didn’t have to be a washroom over the winter. “What on earth are you talking about?” groaned Shelley, as I explained that the second washroom would be a storage area for my dormant fig trees over the winter.
Every winter after that, we went back to life with a single, shared washroom. We're still married.
Teaching People About Figs
I never set out to be known for figs. It was an accident.
It started when I gave a talk at a gardening event. My talk was about fruit, and included a few slides about figs. But nearly all of the questions people asked at the end of the talk were about figs. I brought a couple of fig trees as door prizes—and the winner of one of the trees told me she had multiple offers to buy it. It was that day I realized that figs fascinate a wide range of gardeners, especially in cold climates where people don't realize that they can grow figs.
So I created a talk specifically about growing figs in cold places. I eventually turned that talk into my book, Grow Figs Where You Think You Can't. Then I made this website and my Biggs-on-Figs blog.
Always Learning More About Figs
There are a lot of really creative and gifted gardeners who figure out neat ways to help their fig plants survive cold winters. I learn new things from them all the time. The great part of being known for figs is that people contact me to share great tips. I'm always learning new fig-growing tips—things that I can share in my talks and blog.
Life Beyond Figs
When I'm not with my fig plants, I work in communications. I'm an award-winning journalist and author specializing in gardening, farming, and food production. I also do a lot of public speaking about gardening.
I live with my wife Shelley, three children, and a whole lot of fig trees in Toronto, Canada.