Louisville – Yew Dell Gardens

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(click all images to enlarge)

Peaceful, exotic, unusual, Yew Dell gardens is not your everyday visit. While they have the most gorgeous groupings of evergreens in their classic routine – with smaller, lower-growing species below and the taller groupings behind in a wash of evergreen textures, and all developed carefully over time – there is much more here. Even the more deciduous areas were constructed with the longer view, which means depth, color and structural form of an incredibly appealing nature.

First the evergreens:

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Then those more deciduous groupings:

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This is a garden that would have to have been a nursery-owner’s delight. Experiments galore still stud the grounds in a riot of stable,aged andย  standard plantings, mixed with some real bizarre eye candy. Lovingly constructed by the instigator of all this and his loving wife, Theodore and Martha Klein had them some real fun. Here is a short blurb taken from their website ( http://www.yewdellgardens.org/):

“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.”

A perfect example of the level of “whimsy” Mr. Klein brought to bear on his property rests here, in the form of his small “Castle”:

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Mr. Klein’s love of and appreciation for stone work is redolent throughout the entire place. His walls and even other entire buildings show a severe appreciation for the beauty and form of stone houses, walls and steps into gardens:

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I love this wall. It reeks, somehow, of Kentucky, reminding one of the rows and rows of “slave walls” dry set and loose along the roads around horse farms in Central Kentucky:

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In the end, however, it remains the plantings which left the largest impression on this visitor. Here is a series of different-colored Xanthosoma – ranging from a lime green, through a cultivar featuring deep purple stems to another entirely purple variety which absolutely stunned me with its deep purple tone and downright uniqueness. (Check out the reverse side of those gorgeous huge leaves and how they become a dustier “negative” of their reverse):

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The velvety texture of the darker portion is hard to capture on camera, but it feels just as lush as it looks.

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The fact is, the garden’s fascination with “Purpurea’s” of all types does not stop at those uncanny Xanthosomas. Here is a tiny set of purple Shamrocks –

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Odder yet – and tons more purple – is this most surprising Mimosa Tree:

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The Yew Dell Garden is a true delight. It’s a bit smaller than I had thought it would be but they manage to cram all sorts of fascinating, weird, wild and wonderful stuff into it in a riot of species, colors and form. We caught it at the onset of Autumn, so we missed a lot of some equally-unusual annuals and the perennials which had just pretty much finished doing their thing.

Frances at FaireGarden will appreciate their love of that gorgeous Muhley Grass, however, stuck as it is here at the entrance to the place –

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Fearless, experimental and plain fascinating, sculptures are sporadically placed around the Gardens in auspicious spots as well.

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I was particularly taken with The Hand – the sculpture which opened up this post at the top. It’s stark posturing in the middle of a wide expanse of grass just speaks volumes to the unique perspective this gorgeous and interesting garden exudes in so many ways:

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Here’s a walkway through some pruned Holly Trees, hard by those purple Xanthosomas and another sculpture. Like I said – the interesting stuff just doesn’t quit.

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I confess to my own bias – I am also fascinated with purple as a garden color for some strange reason – and maybe that’s it – the strangeness. But Yew Dell certainly has it in abundance, combined with other slices of absolute uniqueness.

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Color everywhere – even in Fall – this garden is well worth anyone’s visit. Eccentric gardens are not that unusual in North America. I know a family in British Columbia who once made themselves a small retreat out of Rhododendrons and Azaleas which got bigger than themselves. Some of these places are now parks people gladly pay to visit in season. Yew Dell, motivated by a nurser and handy man with resources has become every bit of that.

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Thanks for coming along!

9 thoughts on “Louisville – Yew Dell Gardens

  1. Annette, that’s just the way some of them grow – interesting aren’t they? Mind you, now some of those are pruned like crazy.

    Tom, it’s a trip. I think it’s best time would be Spring if not Summer. But it is well worth a stroll any time at all. Just a gorgeous and interesting place.

  2. Give the man a hand…

    The backsides of the purple-black leaves is amazing, and I’ll have to admit to a liking for muhuly grass this time of year. Looking at it is always strange:It’s so vaporous that your eyes just can’t focus, like pink smoke. Or is it just the late hour?

    Very cool garden. We have nothing like it here in these parts.

  3. Yeah, James, both that bizarre purple thing and the Muhley grasses are stunning in the best and most weird ways. Pink smoke? Are you sharing? ๐Ÿ˜‰

  4. Dear Steve, thanks so much for sharing this place. This man was a genius. Good for him letting his imagination do the walking. His stone buildings and wall are very fine. I love the holly hallway. Thanks for the shout out too. Muhly makes a welcoming whoosh in the fall. I have found the allium ‘purple sensation’ interplanted with it adds interest in spring and summer too. And a big congrats on your newest family member. XO

  5. These are good days, Frances. For real. I now have a little brother who is a grandfather. Now that is reality hitting one in the face. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  6. Steve
    Loved this tour! Thank you for taking us along.
    Lordy, I do love deep purple foliage… and that Muhly grass -every garden should have such a fine hazy cloud of pink as an accessory. Oh so fashionable, I do declare!

  7. Aint she a peach, Alice? That Muhley Grass I first saw at Frances’s place, FaireGarden. She grows the snot out of that stuff, lol. I was shocked then and I am pleased now to see it locally. Quite a cool revelation. Man, that Monkey Flower at your blog is too wild!

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