Gardner’s Gardener: The Man Who Keeps the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Bloom

It takes ten staff members to gingerly install each nasturtium plant in the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum’s magnificent courtyard. “The vines are up to 20 feet long,” explains Stan Kozak, the museum’s chief horticulturist. “So, it’s like a bridal procession, with one person taking the pot and everyone else carrying a section of the plant with arms out. We walk from the truck, up the stairs into the museum, and then slowly hang them over the third-floor balconies.”

For Bostonians, the annual appearance of the 20 nasturtium plants every April is the first sign that spring is on its way. Propagated from cuttings of the preceding generation or germinated from new seeds starting in June, then coddled through the winter in the museum’s greenhouses in nearby Hingham, the vines with their extravagant vermilion flowers only alight for three short weeks. Their brief, dazzling appearance, like the rest of the beloved museum’s flora, has been Stan Kozak’s work for his entire career.

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Photo: Sean Dungan/Courtesy Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston

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