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Southeast: Going green in more ways than one

 Courtesy Yew Dell Gardens


Although its flowerbeds and walking trails are a natural off-site getaway for meeting attendees, Yew Dell Gardens near Louisville, Ky., is also an important resource for the nursery industry.

“To find better, more sustainable plants for gardens, our researchers travel the world to collect plants in the wild to bring back for testing in our labs,” said Paul Cappiello, the gardens’ executive director, who earned his doctorate in horticulture. “We trial plants for breeders. We tested Knockout Roses for four years before they hit the market to find which varieties would work best in this area.”

To support its research arm and to follow its ever-greener philosophy, Yew Dell staff are designing new greenhouses that will use photovoltaic solar panels. The greenhouses will be used for plant research and as exhibits to show options to nursery owners.

“Here in the Ohio Valley, people would never think of using solar panels to heat a greenhouse in the winter,” Cappiello said. “There’s not enough light. But during the rest of the year when the sun is baking, solar panels can power circulation and cooling fans and vents. These will help us show people how to reduce energy usage.”

A greenhouse for research and education is also planned. Half of the structure will house plants, and the other half will be a classroom. Instead of the traditional glass roof, the half of the roof that shelters the classroom will be covered with sod.

“There’s no reason to pump heat through a glass roof that will be covering people and exhibits,” said Cappiello. “This is just one example of how we try to be as green as possible.”