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Making room to grow: Yew Dell Botanical Gardens marks 10 years with a new greenhouse

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By Tracy Harris

Aluminum is the traditional anniversary gift for a 10th anniversary. At Yew Dell Botanical Gardens, that gift is coming in the shape of a greenhouse.

Several dozen people gathered on a chilly day at the gardens Nov. 14 to official break ground on the new greenhouse, one of several new horticulture facilities.

Executive Director Paul Cappiello said the horticulture buildings are a perfect way to mark the beginning of the next 10 years at Yew Dell.

“And I didn’t know how much longer I could go without a greenhouse,” he joked.

Returning to Yew Dell for the horticulture project are Ross Primmer and Roberto de Leon, the architects behind several other facilities at Yew Dell.

A small grassroots group formed in 1998 to save Yew Dell, the former home, garden and arboretum of renowned plantsman Theodore Klein. The gardens opened to the public in 2002. 

Cappiello, along with board president Mary Rounsavall, have watched Yew Dell blossom over the past decade.

The staff’s first major project was the Gheens Barn and Peyton Samuel Head Trust Pavilion, which renovated an existing bank barn and added outdoor event space. 

De Leon and Primmer Architecture Workshop took on the project and attracted national attention.

The Louisville-based architects returned to Yew Dell in 2010 to turn an existing tobacco barn into a visitor’s center.

Both DPAW projects resulted in top design honors from the American Institute of Architects. 

Now, it’s on to building a greenhouse.

Yew Dell staff are working with DPAW and the Rough Brothers of Cincinnati, one of the leading greenhouse/conservatory designers/fabricators in the country.

The Kiel Thomson Company of Louisville will serve as the general contractor — coordinating the process of turning the plans into reality. 

Cappiello thanked Louisville gardener Mary Myers for making the initial capital gift to launch the project.

In a recent meeting with Cappiello, Myers said she wanted to help the gardens grow — and wanted to know why there wasn’t a greenhouse.

That, Cappiello said, was a problem Myers could help solve.

Myers said investing in the greenhouse was a way she could give back for all the joy gardening has given her over the years — she planted her first garden at age 12, she said.

In addition to the greenhouse, the existing historic Klein potting shed building will be completely rehabbed and reopened as the Preston T. Ormsby Horticulture Center, a facility that will serve as the greenhouse’s headhouse, teaching and work space and the center of daily operations for Yew Dell’s growing horticulture staff.

North of the greenhouse and horticulture center building workers will construct production facilities for research evaluation work. 

An unheated high-tunnel structure is ready for fall/winter vegetable production research. 

Evaluation fields for vegetable and ornamental crops will be combined with updated container production facilities, expanded composting capacity and materials storage — to provide an all-encompassing horticulture facility unlike anything in the region.

Cappiello said the building will be “unlike anything else in the region,” with solar, geothermal heating and a green roof.

Universities and other gardens are calling to find out when they can come visit — and construction hasn’t even started, Cappiello said.

“It’s already generating that kind of interest,” he said.

The buildings will showcase low-energy construction and design and blend with existing facilities.

Completion of the greenhouse and horticulture center building is anticipated in spring 2013 with the remainder of the facilities coming online shortly thereafter.

For more photos, view our slideshow.