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In Memoriam: Elizabeth (Betty) Scholtz, GCA National Medalist


May 12, 2020

Director Emeritus of the Brooklyn Botanic Garden

Elizabeth (Betty) Scholtz (1921-2020), 1990 GCA Medal of Honor recipient and Director Emeritus of the Brooklyn Botanic Garden (BBG), passed away April 22, 2020, one week prior to her 99th birthday. She had been associated with the BBG since 1960 shortly after she moved to the United States from South Africa. Betty was appointed director of the garden in 1972, the first woman to lead a major urban botanic garden in the U.S. Although we mourn the loss of this gracious woman, who inspired generations of gardeners worldwide, her legacy will endure in the Elizabeth Scholtz Woodland Garden at the BBG and her eponymous grandiflora rose. The prestigious honors Betty received in the field of horticulture reflect her exceptional personal qualities and her lifelong commitment to outstanding work. 

Betty Scholtz was honored with a litany of awards in her lifetime. Among them were the Arthur Hoyt Scott Garden and Horticulture Medal of Swarthmore College (1981), the Liberty Hyde Bailey Medal of the American Horticultural Society (1984), the Gold Veitch Memorial Medal of the Royal Horticultural Society (1990), the Medal of Honor of The Garden Club of America (1990), the Forsythia Award of the Brooklyn Botanic Garden (2008), and the Honorary Life Member Award of the American Public Gardens Association (2008). The soon-to-be-opened Elizabeth Scholtz Woodland Garden established in January 2020 was designed to be a source of inspiration to urban gardeners as was its namesake. “She was a role model for us all and an always dependable source of wit and wisdom. She will be deeply missed by everyone here.” ––Diane Steinberg, BBG Board Chair. 

In 1988, Elvin McDonald, director of special projects at the BBG, said: ''I wanted a rose with qualities most like Betty, who stands tall, looks elegant in all weather, and is strong and vigorous.'' Betty Scholtz never expected that a fragrant yellow rose named for her would be planted in the Cranford Rose Garden at the BBG. Betty Scholtz was interviewed by South African Home and Garden magazine in 1980 about her role at the BBG and quipped, “Let's not talk about me anymore. The garden is far more fascinating and beautiful.’’

Above: Brooklyn Botanic Garden director Elizabeth Scholtz greets visitors at the first Sakura Matsuri in 1982. Photo by Estelle Gerard. Courtesy of Brooklyn Botanic Garden.

Top photo: Betty Woodland Garden Groundbreaking Photo by Radhika Chalasani. Courtesy Brooklyn Botanic Garden



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