Yew Dell: Holly Cooper’s Family Tree



Sept 2020 – Holly Cooper in Yew Dell’s holly allée. (Robin Cooper photo.)

Holly Cooper comes by her name naturally. Theodore Klein, a nurseryman and plant collector, was Holly’s grandfather. Mr. Klein had a fondness for hollies. He and his wife, Martha Lee, built their home, raised a family and created Yew Dell, their 60-acre workplace and private arboretum in Crestwood, Kentucky.

It shouldn’t be a surprise that Holly became a talented gardener. She also has a photographic gift nurtured by her mother, the well-known photographer Marian Klein Koehler. Holly, my sister-in-law, has an extraordinary eye for nuance and grace.  

Few know Yew Dell Botanical Gardens as well as Holly does. She, of course, in modest fashion, would want to include Uncle Karl Klein, Aunt Joyce Gregory and sister Julie Koehler, who also possess a deep sense of place.

Yew Dell Botanical Garden opened to the public in 2006 with a mission, stated in a nutshell, by Executive Director Paul Cappiello, to: “Raise the bar of horticulture.”

Since then, with love and care from a small, talented and passionate staff, a committed board, and hundreds of devoted volunteers, plus generous public support, a life’s work was preserved, and the gardens and arboretum have been dramatically expanded.

I asked Holly a few months ago to photograph her impressions of Yew Dell. “Fall flavors and activities” were her inspiration.

Sept 2017 – Yew Dell’s memorial gift, a bench honoring my mother, Marian Klein Koehler
Sept 1983 – My grandfather focused on seed and nut sorting. A Fall ritual.
1960 – My grandmother, Martha Lee Klein, by huge black locust. Home, now the kitchen garden. (Theodore Klein photo.)
Sept 1983 – Old Oak, cattle and castle. Viewed from quarry outcropping, a favorite bonfire pit. Cows DO enjoy S’Mores! (Marian Klein Koehler photo.)
Sept 2020 – Pasture renewed as a pollinator habitat.
Oct 2012 – Pond trail. Overgrown pasture. Only mowing needed is the footpath.
Oct 2012 – Persimmons weighing down branches against blue sky. Chill winds begin.
Oct 2020 – Persimmons best eaten dead-ripe!
Oct 2020 – Persimmon seed ‘scat’-tered as nature intended.
Sept 2009 – Papa’s pawpaws. Exotic near tropical flavor..
Sept 2020 – Corn crib. For cow feed. Cardinals eat their share. Horizontal corn attached to wire coat-hangers, suspended off maple boughs.
Sept 2020 – Cornfield, field-dried cob. “Angel’s Share” goes to mice, doves and deer.
Sept 2020 – Corn crib latch is the same since, forever. Withstood lots of interior banging, “Let-me-OUT!”
Sept 2009 – Pet cemetery. My grandfather chiseled the stone and inscribed the cement.
Dec 1980 – “Mildred” the cat, content on any lap. (Theodore Klein photo.)
Sept 1960 – 3 generations to press apples into liquid gold.  (Marian Klein Koehler photo.)
Sept 1960 – Little me, sample sippin’. (Marian Klein Koehler photo.)
Nov 1973 – Frost coming. Find the green tomatoes among the Fall cucurbits. (Theodore Klein photo.)
Sept 2020 – Aging grape vines & trellis. Improved varieties are available, but our old, German ancestral friends won’t disappoint.
Sept 2020 – Uncle Karl maintains his father’s (Papa’s) aluminum labels. Classics, all three of them. I hold Papa and Uncles Jules and Karl in the highest esteem.
Oct 1961- Asian Chestnuts. Old farm entrance. Collecting with cousins. (Marian Klein Koehler photo.)
Oct 1961- 2-yr old me, not happy.  (Marian Klein Koehler photo.)
Oct 1961 – Reward for persistence, sweet nutmeats. (Marian Klein Koehler photo.)
Sept 2009 – Castle vestibule. Papa carved this sundial, paraphrasing Henry Van Dyke’s quote. TIME IS…
Jan 1978 – House under snow. Remember big winter snowfalls? (Marian Klein Koehler photo.)
Robin Cooper photo





  1. What a lovely retrospective of the garden’s history. So wonderful it is being preserved and allowed to age naturally and with dignity. A happy way to start the day. Best of the season.

  2. Allen, Great post! I did a tour of Yew Dell years ago when the SE Chapter of the Amer. Conifer Society had their annual meeting in Louisville. Wonderful piece of US horticultural history brought to life for the enjoyment of all. Paul Capiello & all the folks who worked at Yew Dell over the years deserve kudos for doing a wonderful job. FYI, I sold my house & gardens in Tennessee & am now living in NE New York, with my partner Susie, 15 miles from where I grew up. Susie is a garden designer & artist. I will be pushing the zonal envelope again to see how many plants I can “kill” in this USDA Zone 5 garden.

  3. As a 14 year Yew Dell Gardens volunteer, I love seeing pictures of its past as the Klein family place! Thanks, Holly, for this walk down memory lane.

    • Jacquelyn, it is due to your horticultural expertise and willingness to share that the old place is humming/and purring.
      Glad you stay so involved!

  4. What a treasure trove! Each photo more delightful as they go on. Wonderful that the family chose to open these fine gardens & land to the public. Your posts never disappoint, dear Allen.

  5. This is my favorite GR post ever; I learned so much. (Do also watch the video, fellow readers.) I had a completely wrong idea of Yew Dell’s history and character, and no idea you were so closely connected to it. Now a must-visit, in the not-too-distant brighter future.


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