Castle Gardens Capital Campaign

Yew Dell Botanical Gardens is raising money for their first garden project with landscape architect firm Land Morphology


By Sarah Carter Levitch
Photos by Andrea Hutchinson


It’s 6:30 a.m., and Andrea Hutchinson, our photographer, and I have made our way to the Gardens to capture a moment seldom seen: the sunrise at Yew Dell. The sun slowly paints an orangy pink horizon, shifting the clouds into little wispy puffs as we arrive at Yew Dell Botanical Gardens. Andrea snaps some photos of the Castle, Yew Dell’s iconic visual feature, which will be entirely transformed by the land surrounding it in two years. You could say the sun is rising on a new era at Yew Dell.

The Gardens enter their 20th year being open to the public, a significant milestone to celebrate. It feels only natural to reflect on all the achievements while also imagining the future. Executive Director Paul Cappiello noted, “over the years, we’ve done a handful of capital campaigns. They have been involved with purchasing property or architectural projects, renovating older buildings and developing new ones. We focused on ways to generate revenue so we had a strong, sustainable organization that could support the garden and greenhouses. Now, 20 years in, we’re ready to tackle major garden projects.”

The project will redesign the land surrounding the Castle, tripling the garden space and doubling the number of people that can be handled at large events. Cappiello said, “it’s a win-win. We achieved that through strategic and creative design, and the garden isn’t losing any of the historical characters.”

Without compromising the level of creativity, attention and investment given to past architectural projects, Yew Dell hired the landscape architecture firm Land Morphology based in Seattle and led by the founder Richard Hartlage. Cappiello shared a fun fact about Hartlage, “he’s a great plantsman, he ran a botanical garden in the past and he’s worked with landscape architect design firms, so he’s got a huge diversity of talents and abilities. Also, Hartlage is from Crestwood, Kentucky and grew up 2 miles down the road. He even credits Theodore Klein, whose property this was, as part of his inspiration for going into the field. It’s a great marriage of bringing a big name from out of town and local talent who knows the area and history of the property.”

With the help of The Land Morphology Team, the Castle Gardens project will address some issues to help lay a foundation for the future of Yew Dell. Cappiello explained, “this property wasn’t designed as a public botanic garden, so there’s always a challenge of accommodating large crowds of people while retaining the character. This project will be setting the template for further development down the road and improving accessibility. The land around the Castle covers an area with three distinct elevations. We’ll take those elevations and blend them with a series of accessible ramps so that all our visitors can get to all garden areas.”

Putting all these goals together, the project will be Yew Dell’s most extensive capital campaign to date, with a goal of $5 million. Cappiello expanded on the project’s timeline. “We’re a little over $2.1 million raised as of July 2022. We hope to finish fundraising through the winter and early spring of 2023. Hopefully, we’ll start construction in late spring or early summer of 2023 and finish the majority of construction at the end of 2023. It’s an ambitious goal, but you don’t get there if you don’t set the goal.”

Supporting the growth and potential of the gardens at Yew Dell, along with other projects such as the new irrigation pond and the apprenticeship program, The Castle Gardens Project stands as a portal into the future of continuing education, innovation and community at Yew Dell Botanical Gardens.

To donate visit yewdellgardens.org/donate.

To learn more about the Castle Garden Capital Campaign, visit yewdellgardens.org/castle-garden-capital-campaign.