By Julie Moir Messervy
One of my dear friends in the landscape industry passed away this week; I am so sad. Chief Horticulturist Stan Kozak started at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum when he was just 17 and recently celebrated his 50th year there.
I first visited the Gardner Museum in college and promptly fell in love with its elegant flower-filled Courtyard with the peach-colored walls and encrusted balconies that remind us of 15th century Venetian palaces. How lucky I was when Stan and I started working together some twenty years ago to place his perfectly grown plants so that their colors, heights, and textures all harmonized beautifully. We also worked with different departments—textiles, music, and sculpture—to create exciting New England Spring Flower Show displays, each one featuring favorite Gardner plants like the deep purple and blue Cineraria, yellow and orange Clivia, and the hanging Nasturtiums that are featured every March at the Nasturtium Ball. It was fun to watch his scarecrow-tall limbs delicately maneuver the nasturtium tendrils through the halls and place them so they’d cascade perfectly from the upper balconies to adorn the Courtyard’s walls.
More recently, JMMDS Senior Landscape Architect Erica Bowman and I delighted in working with Stan and with his Greenhouse Operations Manager Erika Rumbley. Stan and I have also been proud long-time members of the Horticultural Club of Boston, where his loss will be deeply felt.
There have rarely been more joyful parts of my job than when working side by side with Stan. He’d stand quietly, observing my many big moves and tiny adjustments with patience and a kind of dark humor until I felt like the composition worked just right. Then we’d take some time to catch up on our lives: our families, friends, and colleagues.
At Stan’s funeral, Father Flanagan talked about how we all begin our lives in the Garden of Eden and perhaps, we end them in another garden—in Jesus’s case, the Garden of Gethsemane. All of us who are privileged to spend our lives creating beautiful landscapes are the lucky ones; in spending fifty years making the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum’s Courtyard as exquisite as it is, Stan may have been the luckiest gardener of us all.