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Gardner Museum Horticulturalist, Who Cultivated the Institution’s Plant Life for 50 Years, Has Died at 67

 Stanley Kozak in the museum's off-site greenhouse

Stanley Kozak in the museum’s off-site greenhouse.

COURTESY ISABELLA STEWART GARDNER MUSEUM

Stanley Kozak, the head of horticulture at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, died on November 3 at age 67 after a battle with cancer. Kozak had tended the museum’s interior courtyard, where hundreds of plants are grown, since he was a 17-year-old intern at the institution.

Having first joined the museum in 1969, Stan became the fourth and longest-serving head of horticulture at the museum in 1990. He was known for his expert understanding and knowledge of plants, changing plants in the courtyard seasonally and caring for them on a daily basis. His floral installations often took months of planning, given the challenging environmental conditions of the interior courtyard.

Some of Stan’s most intricate and artful projects include the 20-foot flowering nasturtium vines that hang from the courtyard balconies each April and the 40-year-old flowering jade plants included in an annual holiday display.

In a statement, the museum’s director Peggy Fogelman, said that “the museum has lost a legendary presence who created magic for the Gardner, the city of Boston, and millions of visitors,” adding, “Few have had a more positive and sustained impact on the life of the museum and its capacity to instill a sense of wonder and solace in visitors.”

Anne Hawley, the former director of the Gardner museum, told WBUR that Stan was a “brilliant plantsman.” She also said that Stan would occasionally talk to his plants: “He believed they needed the conversation.”

The museum will now name its gardeners workroom for Stan and dedicate funding to supporting horticulture and the maintenance of the courtyard in his name.

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