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Malama ‘aina, caring for the land, expresses a concept much more complex than its simple translation might suggest. The ancient voyagers who settled Hawai’i knew they had the kuleana (responsibility) to care for their land. In so doing, the Hawaiians developed a sophisticated culture based upon the interconnectedness of land, water, and all forms of life that has persevered for hundreds of years. Malama ‘aina is the responsibility of those who love their community. Anyone who lives in these beautiful islands with true aloha for the land and its people becomes part of something much greater. That responsibility is reflected in the mission and history of The Garden Club of Honolulu.

Founded in 1930 by a small, dedicated group of passionate gardeners, The Garden Club of Honolulu honored the concept of malama ‘aina by recognizing the unique nature of these remote islands and all that grows here. Those early members, all women, toured each other’s gardens, engaged specialists to speak about fertilizers and tools, and held friendly competitions to see who could raise the most unusual hibiscus or largest rose.

Women from the Garden Club of America arrive in Honolulu for the first Flower Show.

The first TGCH Flower Show was held in 1931, at the Honolulu Academy of Arts (today’s Honolulu Museum of Art). One year later, TGCH was accepted into a national organization, The Garden Club of America. Through the next two decades, TGCH activities closely paralleled Hawaii’s expanding international presence. From annual flower shows to public beautification projects, the club enhanced O’ahu’s beauty and horticultural knowledge base.

Member interest in the islands’ flora quickly evolved into pioneering conservation efforts. TGCH undertook its first conservation projects in the 1950s as Hawai’i was formally admitted to the Union. These efforts included preservation of the iconic Diamond Head and active support for the establishment of the National Tropical Botanical Garden on Kauai.

In 1965 Mayor Neal Blaisdell presented Mrs. Richard Girton with a sign for the Prehistoric Glen at Foster Botanical Garden.

Through the 1960s and 1970s, TGCH matured into a reliable community partner in efforts to preserve Hawaii’s natural beauty. The club hosted expert speakers from home and abroad to educate both members and the general public. It also funded hardscape and landscape improvements to various public spaces. Membership in the club expanded to include people representing the myriad cultures and backgrounds represented in Hawai’i.

The 1989 flower show highlighted Hawaii’s distinctive cultural diversity through stunning examples of horticulture, floral design, photography, and the botanical arts. Flower Shows are held every three years and have expanded to include displays of sustainability and environmental protection efforts. The next Garden Club of Honolulu Flower Show Beyond the Reef will be held June 23-25, 2023 at the Honolulu Museum of Art.

Malama ‘aina. For almost a century now, The Garden Club of Honolulu has proudly upheld our love and responsibility for our island home.

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