Through club projects and contributions from its Foundation, the Columbia Garden Club has participated in the beautification of nearly every landmark in Columbia.

Two very prominent events also marked the club year as “quite extraordinary”. For only the second time since its inception, the Columbia Garden Club Foundation received a generous donation of $50,000.00 to its principal from Jane Patterson Suggs. The donation honored the memory of CGC Honorary Life Member Kathleen Kay Lightsey. Kathleen’s many contributions to the club included serving as president (1982-83) and establishing the Columbia Garden Club Foundation, Inc. in 1983. This heartfelt contribution from dedicated CGC member Jane will help strengthen the financial position of our Foundation for years to come. Additionally, Jane Suggs and Anne Bristow (co-chairmen of the CGC Centennial Project Committee), assisted by Kappy Hubbard and Verd Cunningham, were pleased to announce that a bronze statue of CGC founding member Mrs. Sarah Boylston has been commissioned and will be installed in the mall of the Governor’s Mansion Complex in celebration of our 100th anniversary.

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 on the Horseshoe at the University of South Carolina. In 2002, the garden was dedicated to Norma Cannon Palms, former USC First Lady and honorary member of the Columbia Garden Club. Also, the Garden Club was a founding member of the Historic Columbia Foundation and Columbia Green and has supported them with contributions to their projects. The Club’s oldest project is the semi-annual Plant Exchange, which was founded in 1927. It continues today to draw a large number of participants from around the Midlands. The Exchange has recently featured native plants to share with the community. 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 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 has contributed over $474,000 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. Over the past years, the Club has sponsored various projects to raise funds for the Foundation including the Tour of Homes, fashion show and luncheons, wine tastings, the Garden pARTy and our April 2018 Beautiful by Design symposium. 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. Two additional printings were made in 2005 and 2012. In 2019, our calendar sales of A Floral Filled Year won a national award from the NGC, Inc. 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. To celebrate our 75th anniversary of our founding, $25,000 was pledged to the City of Columbia for the construction of a fountain on Main Street at City Hall. 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.

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. Additionally in 2006, the Foundation donated funds for the creation of a permanent stand system for the State Christmas Tree. In 2012, the Columbia Garden Club Foundation fulfilled its five-year $100,000 commitment to support Historic Columbia’s renovation and restoration of the garden at the newly interpreted Woodrow Wilson Family Home.

Dogwood Flower

Members of the club decorate the Governor’s Mansion each Christmas. In December 2015, SCETV produced a wonderful video of CGC decorating the Mansion. In 2017, the Governor’s Mansion Foundation dedicated a bench in the Boylston Garden in honor of the Club for decorating the Mansion for the holidays for 35 years. In 2003, the Club assisted with the decorating for the Governor’s Inaugural Celebration. In 2003 and 2004, Columbia Garden Club began decorating the State Christmas Tree with lights and colorful boxes representing presents under the tree. In 2005, the club partnered with BellSouth, now AT&T, to decorate the tree with new ornaments and install an electrical connection located to serve both the City of Columbia and the State House. In 2009, the Columbia Garden Club partnered with the Garden Club of South Carolina to obtain and decorate the State Christmas Tree in 2010. In 2012, the Foundation provided funds to purchase 11,000 energy efficient LED lights for the State Christmas Tree. 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 State by providing the State Christmas Tree.

In the early spring of 2014, the CGC Foundation donated $25,000 to the restoration of the entrance to the Sarah Porter Smith Boylston Memorial Garden in Columbia. This notable garden was designed by Loutrel Briggs and is owned by the Garden Club of South Carolina. In the spring of 2016, the Foundation voted to donate $13,529 to Historic Columbia for the purpose of redeveloping their garden entrance at the Robert Mills House. In May of 2017, the Foundation granted Historic Columbia $11,000 to improve plantings and pathway infrastructure at the Woodrow Wilson Family Home and Riverbanks Zoo and Garden received $2,750 for a sustainable gardening demonstration in the Children’s Garden and Vegetable Garden.

The Foundation’s contribution to the community in 2018 included $8,000 to the Saluda Shoals Foundation for their park’s inclusive playground and $10,000 to our Centennial Fund. In 2021, the Foundation gave $5,000 to the Governor’s Mansion Foundation for a bulb display on the Mansion grounds as part of their major renovation of this prominent garden. The cheerful daffodils were a bright spot to enjoy outside in the challenging pandemic years. The seasonal return of these vibrant flowers continues to be a welcome sight in the garden.

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. Our greatest reward is seeing more beautiful surroundings for all to enjoy.

The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere where they can be quiet, alone with the heavens, nature and God. Because only then does one feel that all is as it should be.

– – – Anne Frank