Michael McCormic, Jr.
RIDGEFIELD — Customers at Bird’s English Garden and Nursery in Ridgefield know that they will always be offered honest and accurate gardening advice from nursery owner Kevin Bird, who runs the garden with the help of his British wife, Andreana.
Kevin Bird, who spent five years as the head gardener at Knowlsey Park, home of the English Earl of Derby, holds horticulture knowledge and aptitude quite literally fit for royalty.
Bird is a self-professed lifelong horticulturist. He rooted his first cutting in the eighth grade and has been growing plants ever since. A graduate of Washington State University, Bird holds a bachelor’s degree in horticulture and has run Bird’s English Garden since 1994. The garden itself has been in operation since the 1940s, and carries no small amount of local history.
“It’s one of the first retail nurseries around. It used to be called the Pioneer Nursery,” Bird recalls. “Since we’ve had it, there’s been tremendous growth in the area. We are now in the city of Ridgefield. When we bought the nursery, it was 3 miles away from the city of Ridgefield.”
As a nursery that operates solely off of retail, Bird’s English Garden and Nursery grows their products on site, so customers can walk through the greenhouses and see the plants in all stages of growth. In addition to the retail store and garden, the company also offers landscaping services.
“It’s really kind of three businesses in one,” says Bird.
The layout of the garden is unique when compared to the typical nursery; instead of simply “stocking” plants, the inventory at Bird’s is arranged and displayed to function just as much as a walk-through garden as it does a nursery.
“We just started an English garden theme,” Bird explains. “We brought some of those ideas and some of the stuff we experienced in Europe back to here. So we kind of set the nursery up as an open garden, so we’re a little bit different from Home Depot and Lowes; you’re going to come in here and see a 200-foot., 7-foot trunk giant sequoia on the premises.”
By and large, the garden is intended to feel more organic than yard and garden superstores. Bird’s goal is to make garden supply shopping an experience rather than a chore. The way he puts it, much of the inspiration for his garden stems from his time in Europe.
While he traveled extensively throughout the 1980s, Bird spent time in the late 1980s and early 1990s as the head gardener for the 18th Earl of Darby, Edward Stanley. According to Bird, these five years spent working for English royalty were formative in his approach to gardening.
“We brought back a little bit of everything. It was a wealth of knowledge. My plant material knowledge went through the roof,” Bird claims. “The English gardening has been going on since the beginning of time, so there was everything from structure of gardens to plant material use to learning the routines of that type of a household. Some of that came back here. When we built the nursery, we tried to build it in a gardening atmosphere, and we offer a lot of ideas on English-themed gardening. Anything from wide perennial gardens to stately properties with long pathways with specialty evergreens.”
In addition to the inspiration his tenure as head gardener for Lord Derby provided, the experience is also one of Bird’s favorite stories to tell. As head gardener, he worked alongside other staff members to provide for His Lordship and entertain guests, including the royal family when they came to town.
“Our main job on the estate was to take care of the lord. We had a full blown nursery with cut flowers and everything. The house had to have fresh flowers in vases everywhere, fresh food every day,” says Bird. “It was a blast. It was amazing. Valets, butlers, Rolls Royces, the whole nine yards. I lived in the head gardener’s house on the estate, there were approximately 50 dwellings on the estate.”
The of Earl of Derby has historically been an influential figure on the world stage. The 16th Earl of Derby, Fredrick Stanley, was appointed by Queen Victoria to serve as the sixth Governor General of Canada. The Stanley family name is also prevalent in modern culture, as it serves as the inspiration for the NHL Stanley Cup and Stanley Park in Vancouver, BC. Currently, the title is held by the 18th Earl’s nephew, also named Edward Stanley.
While they have made a successful life for themselves here in the United States, Kevin and Andreana Bird clearly hold strong ties to United Kingdom. For Andreana, it is nothing short of her homeland. For Kevin, an American by birth, it is a source of inspiration that has made his business one of a kind in the Clark County area. The couple hopes to someday return to the England, where two of their children already live.
Bird’s English Garden and Nursery is located at 1296 S. Dolan Road in Ridgefield. For more information, visit birdsenglishgarden.com or call the nursery at (360) 887-3270.