“We get people who have lived here forever and didn’t know we existed. We also get people who plan their travel around the gardens. They choose the gardens before they choose their accommodations or any other aspect of their trip. That’s how committed they are.”
Written by Sarah Kinbar | Photos by Mary Helen Nunn
Sponsored by: Yew Dell Botanical Gardens | 6220 Old LaGrange Rd , Crestwood, KY 40014 | Phone: (502) 241-4788 | Email: email@example.com | Website: YewDellGardens.org
It’s the most wonderful time of the year at Yew Dell Botanical Gardens. The signature event, Yuletide at Yew Dell, is underway and all the holiday trappings are on display. But there’s so much more to behold than the seasonal homage highlighting the jolly man in the red suit. Wintertime at Yew Dell has otherworldly appeal. Snow on branches, crystals forming here and there, and the sculptural nature of bare trees and bushes combine to create a wondrous experience.
While a wintry jaunt through the gardens is surely a delight, a visit any other time of the year is equally as glorious. Many of the garden’s visitors are local Oldham County residents but there are garden aficionados around the country who treat Yew Dell like a Mecca.
Sayde Heckman, Garden and Arboretum Manager says, “We get people who have lived here forever and didn’t know we existed. And then we also get people who plan their travel around the gardens. They choose the gardens before they choose their accommodations or any other aspect of their trip. That’s how committed they are.”
And what is it that lures these visitors to Yew Dell so faithfully?
“We take pride in having a mixture of materials. We are collectors of all kinds of living things — natives and cultivars and cool selections new on the market,” Sayde says. “We’re planting tropicals and annuals. We’re incorporating house plants and all kinds of funky stuff you’re not used to seeing. We also have a three-acre pollinator meadow. So you can see a little bit of everything.”
Though edible gardens are not the center of attention at Yew Dell, Sayde says she has found creative ways to integrate them into the garden’s idyllic scenery.
“We have plants that might typically be classified as ornamentals that are actually edible and very beautiful. One is Malabar spinach. For our fall displays, we started doing bourbon barrels planted up with corn and people get so freaked out. Another one is millet, a grain crop, with a really cool flower. It smells like maple syrup when it shoots up its spike. We use that as an annual” Sayde says. “This year I found a bunch of dwarf ‘Lemon Drop’ watermelons so I planted them everywhere in our kitchen garden.”
Another sign that Yew Dell’s reputation extends well beyond Kentucky is that they were able to secure Richard Hartlage, the founder of the Seattle-based landscape architecture firm Land Morphology, for their Castle Gardens Capital Campaign.
“It’s our 20th anniversary. All of our capital campaigns in the past have been toward infrastructure or buildings and this is the first one for the garden. We’re focusing it around the castle, which is one of the iconic features of the property. It’s a five million dollar project,” Sayde says. “Something great we’re doing is applying 20% of every single donation towards endowing a staff member position, so that as the garden expands, we have the people to care for it.”