An obsessed orchid grower’s business built into a hillside in eastern Kansas City doubles as a surprising local attraction.
If you love shopping for plants, watch for the black-and-white sign on Interstate-435 that says “Interstate Underground Warehouse” and take the 23rd Street exit. Take a short gravel drive south to a gaping square hole in the hillside. There, inside bluffs hollowed out years ago for limestone, a small wooden door marks Bird’s Botanicals. Deep inside the old quarry, you’ll find more than 10,000 plants growing and blooming—most of them orchids, but also ferns, succulents and begonias.
Horticulturist David Bird runs the operation. He once spent three months trying to count how many orchids he had, but by the time he finished, the number had changed. Now he just claims to have thousands of plants and hundreds of varieties—large, small, rare and hybrids with names like Dancing Doll, Chocolate Orchid, Dracula Vampira and Lady Slipper. He manages the orchid cave with his daughter and her friendly corgi named Kahlua, who serves as the cave greeter. “I like unusual, strange and exotic plants,” he says. “I’m kind of at the obsessed level.” Bird fell in love with orchids as a teenager on a family trip to Hawaii. Now he grows hundreds of varieties from around the world and sells them to florists and individuals starting at $15 a pop.
The 10,000-square-foot orchid cave, as it’s known, housed impounded cars and old jukeboxes before it was transformed into four growing rooms with artificial lights, a classroom and a gift shop. Bird’s Botanicals is open to the public from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. every Tuesday and Wednesdays through Fridays by appointment. It's worth a visit for anyone who loves to garden—and a discovery.