Growers in the Spotlight

Brushy Creek Nursery owners enjoy blooming second career

By: Nancyjo Riekse, Special to Home & Garden
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Ben and Phyllis Espinosa have something wonderful going on up at Brushy Creek Nursery in Foresthill and if you haven't been there, make sure you go this year. It is not like any other nursery I have been to. Tucked up in the hills right outside the heart of Foresthill, it gives you a sense that you are going out in search of that unique and unusual plant specimen. The nursery has little red wagons out in front to put your selections in and tables filled with specimens. It is fenced and gated, with red buds blooming around the entire perimeter. The homestead sits on 20 acres, two of which are dedicated to the nursery. n How did you get into the nursery business? This is their fifth season in business, Phyllis said. The couple came to the foothills from Campbell, where she was a bookkeeper and Ben a plumber. Phyllis' daughter and grandchildren from another marriage just happen to live in Foresthill. The Espinosas moved to their Brushy Creek homestead on Dec. 26, 2000. This was going to be the place for them to start their marriage and retirement, but retirement didn't last long. When they decided to focus on growing plants and gardening, they enrolled in classes at Sierra College, went to tradeshows and asked lots of questions. Neither of them had experience in this area, but Phyllis said she loves to learn new things and Ben loves Phyllis. In 2003 they started selling small potted plants at the Foothill Farmers' Market in Auburn and enjoyed the experience so much they fenced the horse corral on their property and became a full nursery, they said. n What are the nursery's specialities? They specialize in Zone 7 plant material. n What is the most popular item at the nursery? Their best seller is the Arctostaphylos uva-ursi, which they describe as an excellent manzanita ground cover. It's flame retardant with a 12-foot spread, beautiful pink flowers and red berries in the fall. They start most of their own plants, but some plugs are purchased from Cornflower Farm in Elk Grove. This is a nursery that you can come and enjoy for hours, talking about plant material with Phyllis, and walking through their display gardens. Brushy Creek Nursery is at 22100 Brushy Creek Circle in Foresthill; phone (530) 367-3383 To meet more local farmers and ranchers visit Nancyjo is the agricultural marketing director for Placer County, owner of Food to Dine For and a member of numerous sustainable agricultural associations. She can be reached at