By Lucinda Greene, Colorado Master Gardener
Dr. Jim Klett is retiring in January 2023 after a 42-year career at Colorado State University as a professor of Landscape Horticulture, Ornamentals and Nursery Management. In addition to developing strong relationships with the green industry in Colorado, Dr. Klett has been a long-time friend to the Colorado Master Gardener program. Through his publications, Dr. Klett has enriched volunteer education in botany, plant identification and diagnostics. Alison O’Connor, the Horticulture Agent in Larimer County said, “I have had the pleasure of working with Dr. Klett for 17 years and his respect for Master Gardener volunteers is unsurpassed. He truly enjoys working with CMGs and understands the influence and importance they have on their local communities.”
Dr. Klett’s influence on the Colorado Master Gardener program is extensive. CMGs use a variety of research-based documents to answer consumer gardening questions. PlantTalk scripts provide succinct fact-based information for gardeners. Did you know that Dr. Klett created PlantTalk Colorado in 1996? Originally, citizens would call a phone number to hear a script read on specific horticulture topics. Disseminating garden information with recorded scripts was a novel idea when the program was launched. Presently, PlantTalk has 600 scripts available on the website PlantTalk Colorado. More than half are translated into Spanish. Dr. Klett also authored dozens of fact sheets used by the volunteers.
Also in 1996, Dr. Klett began presenting the bi-annual Short Course–a day-long horticulture conference –which brought green industry professionals and Colorado Master Gardener volunteers together to dive deeper and share knowledge on home landscape issues. In addition, Dr. Klett collaborated annually with volunteers to create a demonstration garden at the Colorado Garden and Home show. Each year, volunteers from different counties worked with Dr. Klett to present current education on emerging landscape trends for Colorado homeowners.
One of the volunteers’ most referenced publications is the Front Range Tree Recommendation List. This document, created in consultation with representatives from the American Society of Landscape Architects, Colorado Nursery and Greenhouse Association and The Colorado Tree Coalition, lists comprehensive ratings for tree suitability in front range landscapes. Three species of Aesculus, or Ohio Buckeye rank high on the list. Alison recalls serving on the committee to develop the list with Robert Cox, former Horticulture Agent with Arapahoe County, “Both Robert and I served on this committee, and I remember thinking ‘how are we ever going to come up with a final document?’ You had a room of experts (the best of the best), and Jim found a way to make it a collaborative and successful endeavor. I think we met perhaps only five or six times. The result was an incredible publication.”
Given Dr. Klett’s passion for collaboration and educating others about landscape ornamentals, it is fitting that Plant Select has honored his legacy with the selection of a new tree, the Ohio Buckeye, Aesculus glabra ‘Dr. Klett.’ Scott Skogerboe, one of Dr. Klett’s graduate students, originally noticed the tree twenty years ago on the CSU Ft. Collins campus because of its distinctive red fall color. Most Buckeyes turn yellow or brown in the fall. Scott collected seeds, propagated the tree in his home landscape and observed its performance. After the trial, the tree was introduced as a Plant Select recommendation in June of 2022.
Aesculus glabra ‘Dr. Klett’ is available for sale at Ft. Collins Wholesale Nursery. The tree grows about 30-40 feet tall in a rounded form with dark green leaves in five leaflets. The tree produces yellow flowers in May. According to Ross Shrigley, Executive Director of Plant Select, “The Ohio Buckeye has a great tap root that allows it to be drought tolerant. It is a slow-growing, manageable tree with very few diseases in our dry climate. Dr. Klett’s Ohio Buckeye offers a beautiful red fall color. We must remember that with Colorado’s basic (non-acidic) soils and semi-arid climate, we don’t have a lot of good, red fall color tree choices.” More information on the Ohio Buckeye ‘Dr. Klett’ is available here: Dr. Klett buckeye | Plant Select.
Congratulations on your retirement, Dr. Klett!