Blossoming Passions


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The Garden Club of Honolulu continues its long tradition of offering floral design classes, and in partnership with the Lyon Arboretum, highly sought after courses in horticulture, crafts, cooking, and the tricky art of plant and nature photography.
Special thanks to Larry and Claire Johnson for providing their home for this feature’s shoot.

For almost 90 years, a group of island women have been on a mission to conserve, protect and preserve Hawaii’s natural environment. In early 1930, The Garden Club of Honolulu was formally established, and soon after, the club held its first major event, and was formally accepted as a member club of the national Garden Club of America. The legacy work that began almost a century ago has endured and evolved thanks to a group of dedicated and passionate members who have committed to perpetuating the club’s purpose of “stimulating the knowledge and love of gardening, horticulture, floral design and nature photography,” and continue its conservation and restoration mission. While other organizations may share these same admirable goals, few can harness the energy, determination and gravitas of The Garden Club of Honolulu members.

Like a phalanx of deeply rooted and established forest trees holding back a hillside, it is not just the prominently visible trees that do nature’s work of nurturing the earth and countering erosion, but a combined effort from uppermost branches, to the under- story, to the grass roots spreading out at ground level, and so it is with the Garden Club. Club membership has evolved over the years, and today, reflects Hawai‘i’s diverse population, but they all share a few traits in common; a love for the ‘aina, a passionate zeal for making sure that where nature is concerned, that pono practices prevail, and more importantly, the ability to muster forces, physical or financial, that come to bear where needed. Its members are involved in a broad range of programs and projects that take many forms.

The most well-known club event in the community is probably the Major Flower Show, typically held at the Honolulu Museum of Art. This two-day event (the next one is in 2021) is the culmination of three years of planning, research- ing, learning and executing the finer techniques in floral arranging, where members compete in a friendly yet judged competition. This intersection of art and flowers brings club members and the public together, and also serves as one of the ways that the club’s other programs and initiatives get shared. Interpretive floral displays highlight the creative aspects of club membership, but there are many other club projects, too. Member initiatives have included the Prehistoric Glen section of Foster Botanical Garden, and a lo‘i at the Women’s Community Correctional Center, which was expanded with a lei garden. Notably, these projects were recognized on the national level by the voting members of the Garden Club of America, which provided grant money to put towards them.

The club is also known for educational initiatives like providing scholarships and internships for students pursuing degrees in related fields like botany, horticulture or the environmental and conservation fields. For younger students, members have created and supported programs that created gardens, zero-waste food programs, and tree-planting initiatives. Members took their passion for the environment to the State Legislature in support of the “Sun Screen Bill” that helped pass the legislation banning harmful sunscreen from Hawai‘i’s beaches to help protect the underwater garden of coral that rings our islands.

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