Jim Klett awarded the Lee Sommers Agricultural Sciences Distinguished Career Award

During the 2020 College of Agricultural Sciences Awards, longtime faculty member of the Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture, Jim Klett, was awarded the Lee Sommers Agricultural Sciences Distinguished Career Award.

“I’m very honored to have received this, and I’m very humbled,” said Klett during the awards ceremony, which was held virtually due to the current pandemic. “Undergraduates are really the real meaning of my life here. I work so much with them, so consequently, I’m really pleased that without them, I’d really never be able to be successful in a lot of the things that I do.”

An accomplished career over the years

Klett began his career at CSU as an associate professor and extension landscape horticulture specialist, and since then, went on to receive a number of awards, including a 2017 Best Teacher Award from the CSU Alumni Association, the 2003 Pi Alpha Xi Teacher of the Year Award, the 1988 Shepardson Faculty Teaching Award, and four Outstanding Horticulture Professor Awards.

Klett has taught many courses over his distinguished career, and is finding new, innovative ways to bring horticulture into online learning—most recently, during this past semester’s pivot to online learning in the midst of a global pandemic, Klett recorded his campus plant walks so students could continue to follow along.

“I think back over the 40 years that I’ve been here, and I think I’ve been doing those plant walks now, probably close to 80 times, so the campus has really changed,” Klett notes. “Trees keep changing, and I’d like to say that this year we’re actually planting 150 new trees.”

Klett has also focused on applied research that addresses practical issues in landscape horticulture while also mentoring graduate students. His research focuses on landscape plant evaluation (woody and herbaceous) and water requirements, weed control, and greenhouse production of landscape plants.

Over the year’s he’s published 48 refereed publications, co-authored two Plant Select books, written over 354 non-refereed research updates in popular trade publications, and presented 81 abstracts of papers at national and regional meetings. In addition, he’s mentored four Ph.D. students and 35 M.S. students through their degree programs.

Most notably, Klett’s research lab, the Trial Gardens, is the number-two most-popular tourist destination in Fort Collins—second to only New Belgium Brewing. The annual trial gardens, perennial gardens, and the arboretum has been a labor of love for Klett. When he first came to campus in 1980, there were just a few trees in the arboretum. Now that site hosts over 1,250 different taxa.

Klett’s outreach has also been tremendous and impactful, working with CSU Extension Horticulture agents and the Green Industry in Colorado and beyond. He collaborates widely, serving on four industry boards: the Colorado Nursery and Greenhouse Association, Associated Landscape Contractors of Colorado, Garden Centers of Colorado, and Rocky Mountain Chapter of the International Society of Arboriculture.