Yew Dell Botanical Gardens, Crestwood, KY
1905 - 1998

Theodore Klein

Born in 1905 to a horticulturist father, Theodore Roosevelt Klein spent his life in Crestwood, Kentucky building a legacy as a leader of the regional nursery industry and as an educator. Klein and his wife Martha purchased 34 acres in 1934 which became Yew Dell Farm, their family home, nursery and horticultural showcase. For more than 58 years Yew Dell was an active business, with a dairy, landscaping and nursery enterprise, and self-sufficient food producing farm. By the 1960s, Yew Dell had grown to 200 acres of land with livestock, crops, nurseries, greenhouses, and gardens.

Klein’s gardens and greenhouses offered an impressive collection of plants obtained around the world, grown and evaluated to determine their usefulness in the local climate. Klein developed or introduced more than three dozen cultivars, mostly evergreens and particularly Ilex opaca (American holly). In 1995 a plant awards program to promote outstanding ornamental woody and perennial plants for Kentucky landscapes was initiated and named in Klein’s honor. Klein died at the age of 93, having worked in his garden every day until a few weeks before he passed away. A few years after Klein’s death the farm was purchased and reopened as a botanical garden, modeled after Klein’s own values and important as a preserve of agricultural and ornamental landscape in rapidly-developing north central Kentucky.