Meet the Experts at Colonial Gardens
We Have a Passion for Teaching
Colonial Gardens is proud to offer our community some of the industry's top experts. With over 100 years of combined experience, the skills and expertise is unparalleled. From tree disease to houseplant bugs, compost, and patio pavers, if you've got questions, we have answers. Join us for a class or workshop and let your passion grow!
Botanical Brian (Brian Pirtle)
Flowers, trees, vegetables… oh my! If you’ve got questions- this guy has answers. Botanical Brian, as we call him, is our resident expert horticulturist! Everything from tree installation to butterfly habitats, tomato growing, and composting, we can ensure your question won’t go unanswered.
Brian Pirtle is a lifelong gardener and lover of nature! With over 30 years of diverse horticulture and agriculture experience, Brian has dabbled in almost every aspect of garden center, landscaping, and plant production. He thrives with vegetables and enjoys the production of hydroponic vegetables, herbs, and edible flowers. Aside from growing, Brian has also written gardening articles for numerous different organizations and publications.
Rockin' Kev (Kevin Keilig)
Born and raised in Kansas City, Kevin always loved to garden with his dad. Kevin says farming is in his blood, both parents were from farm families in Central Nebraska. From an early age, he would plant a few tree seedlings along the side of his house, sell and plant them for the neighbors. So good, one of those trees is even still there today! Aside from selling trees, Kevin mowed yards as a kid and started working at his first garden center, Blue Ridge Gardens, now Heartland Nursery, at 14 years old. Heartland Nursey is where Kevin spent almost 37 of his horticulture years before joining the team at Colonial Gardens in 2017.
With a Bachelor of Science in Horticulture and a background in business, Kevin was the president of the NWMSU Horticulture Club and aided in enrolling the club with the National Society for Horticulture Sciences. He is proud to have been growing and managing in this business for 40 years. He has a deep passion for growing high-quality plants, fishing, hiking, and hunting while being a long time Chiefs and Royals fan.
“My love for farms grows daily, as does my desire to share the experience with others.”
New to the Colonial team is Grace Ames, but certainly not new to the farm to table scene. Grace runs the market and Colonial Farms at Colonial Gardens. Her background in food and agriculture has given our market a fresh spin on local produce and vendors.
Her start in the industry came when she was knee-high to a grasshopper. Some of her first memories were in her grandparents' gardens- harvesting and preserving the crop as well spending cold winter evenings feeding cattle with her dad. Along the way, an aunt ignited Grace’s passion for cooking and since that time she has devoted her life to developing relationships with farmers and teaching people how whole, fresh food can impact their health in a positive way.
Grace loves to celebrate food (but don’t we all?) and has done so over the years by running multiple kitchens in natural grocery stores. She has worked with farms to host large farm to table dinners and small farm to glass workshops, and small urban farm tours. For 7 years, Grace was a personal chef for those with special dietary needs and hosted whole foods cooking classes.
Colonial Gardens is home to one of the most influential Think Outside the Box, Chris Oursler. As lead landscape designer, Chris is sure to amaze and inspire you with his creations.
Growing up an Air Force Brat, Chris Oursler was born on Warner Robins AFB. From Shu Lin Kou Air Station, Shaw AFB, and Goodfellow AFB, his only consistent home was found during the summers on his Uncle Ray’s farm in Heiskel, Tennessee, and Mema’s little house in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. He calls Rocky Top his home sweet home.
My introduction to the Earth’s Industry began on a small Christmas tree farm at age 13. In 1993, Chris found himself in Belton, MO as a seasonal laborer at a 700-acre tree farm and growing facility. As an arty/ goth kid who’s Doc Marten’s had never touched mud, doubting himself, he began his career in the soil.
Within the soil and sweat, Chris found inspiration from those walking through the nursery with giant clipboards. Upon further observation, the drawings, graphed paper and pencils were the tools of landscape designers and architects. This is how my new palette is applied!
From pruning and planting, Chris was soon observed by a group of garden center executives and given his dream job. He would be building garden show displays in Kemper Arena. Potting arrangements for Kansas City’s most elegant estates, planting trees. Most importantly- studio visiting!
Earth had called and OMG! Chris answered!
Chris has worked at some of the top nurseries and garden centers throughout the Kansas City Metro for almost 30 years and Colonial Gardens is proud to offer Chris’ gift to our community.
“Yours in The Garden, Chris”
Do you walk into Colonial Gardens and say “wow”? More than likely, you’re amazed and dazzled by the displays inside and out of the store thanks to the work done by our own Kristin Middleton. When she’s not arranging and stacking pots, you can find Kristin creating a magical fairy garden or stunning centerpiece.
Kristin grew up on a working farm in Willard, Missouri. Her grandparents had a farm and even run the local farmers' grocery store which they also own. Similar to Colonial Gardens, everything in their store came from straight from the farm.
Kristin’s parents later moved to the city, but she continued her love for gardening and was even on neighborhood garden tour. Kristin says she learned a lot from her family. She has designed and built, many patios, sidewalks, and water gardens. Her favorite aspect to work with is water features along with flower and vegetable beds.
Kristin graduated from CMU in Warrensburg with a bachelor's in Textiles and Clothing in Business. She has previously completed the Master Gardens course. Kristin holds a basic floral design certificate with AIFD trained under Christina Burton-Fox. She has continued her skills training and education by taking online classes from Françoise Weeks on wearable floral designs.
Along with her extensive experience, Kristin has owned her own small business for furniture/ interior faux painting. She has worked at American Restaurant in Crown Center as a Captain in the Catering department and has worked directly with James Beard Chefs, “Best job I ever had”. Her sister is a licensed Interior Designer and when not at Colonial Gardens, Kristin works part-time as her assistant.
You’re sure to be impressed and inspired when attending a class or workshop lead by Kristin.
The guy who holds it all together. The Head Honcho. Operator of all things. Tanner Jones is Colonial Garden’s Garden Center General Manager.
Don’t let his age fool you, Tanner has an extensive background in the horticulture and retail industry. Since working in his parent's orchard and gardens, Tanner has found his love for plants and all things green. He spent his childhood working in a neighboring greenhouse.
Tanner has a Bachelors in Horticulture from the University of Missouri-Columbia and managed a top garden center in Columbia for 4 years. There, he curated one of the largest selections of tropicals in the state.
Tanner is passionate about sharing his love of plants with the community and we are proud to have him leading the team at Colonial Gardens.