Beginning with 33-acres of Oldham County farmland in 1941, Theodore and Martha Lee Klein spent the next 60-plus years developing an exquisite private estate, a successful commercial nursery and an extensive collection of unusual plants and outstanding gardens. Known locally, nationally and internationally as a first-rate plantsman, Theodore Klein was also a self-taught artisan who personally crafted the buildings and gardens that became known as Yew Dell.
Through the years, Klein collected over one thousand unusual specimen trees and shrubs which were displayed and evaluated in his arboretum. He also worked to develop new plant varieties for the regional landscape, amassing an impressive list of more than 60 unique introductions over his professional career.
Almost immediately following Klein’s death in 1998, development pressures began to threaten the property. Recognizing the unique attributes of Yew Dell, a board of community volunteers raised the funds to purchase the property, and then began the longer term plan to restore the property and share its treasures with the public. The special nature of the property was further recognized by The Garden Conservancy, a national non-profit dedicated to saving America’s most treasured gardens. The Conservancy named Yew Dell a Preservation Project, at the time one of only nine such projects in the nation.
In 2002, the Garden Conservancy authored Yew Dell’s stabilization plan, which describes the historical background and design significance of the many unique gardens and landscape features on the property. The stabilization plan assisted Yew Dell board and staff in prioritizing the rehabilitation work and continues to offer valuable assistance for future projects.
Yew Dell Botanical Gardens has now emerged as a thriving botanical garden with local, national and international reach. With over 1200 members and 250 volunteers, the gardens serve as a major center of gardening, research and education, as well as a significant community asset and tourist destination. Download a detailed PDF on the Klein Family History.