Judith Zuk, who ran the Brooklyn Botanic Garden for 15 years and was an influential botany educator and a lover of magnolias, died last week after a long struggle with breast cancer. She was 55.
Zuk led the Botanic Garden from 1990-2005, a major period of growth. During that time, she raised million of dollars to renovate the world-renowned Japanese hill-and-pond garden, the fragrance garden, lily pool terrace, the Osborne garden, the Cranford rose garden and the children’s garden.
She also oversaw the creation of a stunning plaza filled with her beloved magnolias. In 2005 when she retired, the plaza was renamed for her — and in that same ceremony, a variety of magnolia that had been developed at the Garden was named for her, magnolia x ‘Judy Zuk.’ The plant’s flowers (pictured) are yellow with a purple tinge at the base and are said to smell like fruit.
“Judy was an extraordinary and adored leader,” said Earl Weiner, chairman off the Botanic Garden’s board. “Her death represents an enormous personal loss to all of us … as well as to the worldwide horticultural community.”
Zuk, a longtime Park Slope resident, was also the co-editor in chief of the “American Horticultural Society A–Z Encyclopedia of Garden Plants.”
A celebration of Judy Zuk’s life is being planned for Sept. 23 at the Botanic Garden. Details have not been announced.