History of the Columbia Garden Club

Founded in 1926, the Columbia Garden Club has promoted a love of gardening among amateurs, encouraged civic beautification by sponsoring plantings in both public and private places, protected our native trees, flowers and birds through conservation efforts, and delighted South Carolina citizens with its decoration projects. Through club projects and contributions from its Foundation, the Columbia Garden Club has participated in the beautification of nearly every landmark in Columbia.

In the early years, the club planted hundreds of trees in the community and established flower gardens in both public and private places. An on-going project is the Memorial Rose Garden which was founded on the Horseshoe at the University of South Carolina. The Garden Club also was a founding member of the Historic Columbia Foundation and Columbia Green and has supported them with contributions to their projects. Another contribution to the community by the club is the semi-annual Plant Exchange, which was founded in 1927 as the Columbia Garden Club’s first project. It continues today to draw a large number of participants from around the Midlands. The Columbia Garden Club also continues to participate in the city’s Arbor Day ceremonies each year by donating trees. The name of this project was changed in 2003 to The Janie Dent Memorial Arbor Day Project to honor in perpetuity the club’s Foundation benefactor.

The Columbia Garden Club Foundation, established in 1983, has contributed over $300,000 to community projects. The initial funding for the Foundation was generated by the sale of property bequeathed to the club by Miss Janie Dent in 1950. Today, however, many club projects raise funds for the Foundation; some of these include the Tour of Homes and the Wine Tasting in years past, and the newest fundraiser, the Garden Party – an art show held in various historic homes featuring South Carolina artists. As a special project, the book A Collection of Gardening Notes for the Midlands of South Carolina, which was published to celebrate the club’s 75th Anniversary in 2001, was sold as a fundraiser for the Foundation. Fifteen hundred copies were sold, necessitating a second printing in 2005. With income from these projects and investments, the Foundation has made contributions to projects that embrace the purposes and objectives of the Columbia Garden Club. Over the years, recipients of major awards have included the Woodrow Wilson Boyhood Home, Columbia Museum of Art, Riverbanks Zoo’s Botanical Gardens, the South Carolina State Museum, Carolina Children’s Home, EdVenture, the City of Columbia, and the Memorial Rose Garden on the USC campus.

The Memorial Rose Garden, initially created by the Foundation in 1960 to honor deceased club members, was expanded in 2002, and a fountain and a brick walkway were erected. This addition was dedicated to Mrs. Norma Palms, First Lady of the University of South Carolina from 1990-2002, in appreciation of her interest in maintaining the Memorial Rose Garden. Bricks for the walkway were donated by garden club members. Most recently, in 2006, the Foundation awarded the City of Columbia’s Tree and Appearance Commission funds to cover the initial cost of the Treasured Trees Project, a project that identifies and recognizes local trees as significant landmarks. Additionally in 2006, the Foundation donated funds for the creation of a permanent stand system for the State Christmas Tree. In 2007, the Columbia Garden Club Foundation awarded Historic Columbia a five-year commitment to support the creation of an Historic Garden District, to renovate and restore historic homes and gardens, and to create a walking garden district.

Members of the club decorate for many special events in the community, including the Governor’s Mansion each Christmas. In 2003, the club assisted with decorating for the Governor’s Inaugural Celebration. In 2001, the Columbia Garden Club began the tradition of decorating the Christmas tree at the Governor’s Mansion featuring ornaments designed by South Carolina artists. In 2004, the club began a partnership with BellSouth, now AT&T, to purchase and decorate the State Christmas Tree.  In 2009, the Columbia Garden Club partnered with the Garden Club of South Carolina to obtain and decorate the State Christmas Tree in 2010.

On October 4, 2011, Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin recognized the Garden Club of South Carolina, the Columbia Garden Club, and the Downtown Breakfast Optimist Club with a proclamation for dedicated service to the City and the State by providing the State Christmas Tree.  in 2012, with the election of our state’s first female governor, a by-laws change was enacted to invite the spouses of the Governor and the President of the University of South Carolina to become Honorary Members for the period of time their spouses are in office.

The club is honored to have won many awards through the years on national, state, and local levels for its work with conservation efforts, civic beautification, historic preservation, flower arranging, community service, education, and horticulture.

The Columbia Garden Club
PO Box 5925
Columbia, SC 29250