From The Blog

The Kiawah Island Garden Club Is A Perennial Favorite


Kiawah’s Garden Club has something for everyone who likes to plant, appreciate or use plants. With about 60 members currently, it meets monthly September to May and offers a broad array of programs and activities. Monthly meetings provide enriched horticultural learning and experiences through lectures, hands on activities and demonstrations, and tours. Recent and planned activities include expert speakers; field trips to places like Middleton Place, herb gardens, or the Myrtle Beach area; service activities including growing plants for KICA to use throughout the island and working with a local elementary school; and making decorations, such as last week’s wreath-making workshop.

The club has its own website,, which includes the year’s calendar, membership information, photos from over a year’s worth of activities, articles on past activities, and more. Club chair Debora Rowland, who has chaired the club through COVID and will be succeeded next May by current vice-chair Kristin Thompson, invites anyone who likes to garden, make things, socialize, learn, share ideas, or any combination of those, to join the club at any time. Membership is limited to KICA members and annual dues are $15. Extra fees are charged for materials and meals as needed.

The past year’s activities have been planned with COVID safety protocols in mind. The club did not meet for about 6 months in 2020, but resumed that September with an eye to social distancing, outside activities, small group sizes and a zoom option for meetings. After the months of isolation, Debora says people have been grateful for the social opportunities the Garden Club offers.

The Garden Club traces its origins to the late 1970s when John Corley loosely organized a group of homeowners to discuss their frustrations and successes with growing plants in the unfamiliar—to most of them—barrier island environment. By 1995, Lee Borer had been running the group for years and planning meetings herself, but interest had dwindled. Three women determined to revitalize it and created the structure for today’s club, with a newsletter and communications network and participation from club members in planning and hosting monthly programs.

Today in addition to monthly meetings and programs, Garden Club members serve the community. Some work with Leila Gable of KICA’s Land Management staff, assisting in the KICA greenhouse, and Leila serves as the KICA liaison to the club. Leila provides the club with hundreds of seedlings and club members plant and succor them, under Leila’s tutelage as appropriate, until they are mature and attractive enough for planting around the island. They also plan to begin working with Frierson Elementary School on Wadmalaw Island, starting greenhouse plants that they will bring to the students to grow, helping the children learn about plant life.

Debora’s story is not unfamiliar to Kiawah would-be gardeners. She moved to Kiawah full time in 2015 from Pennsylvania, where she had enjoyed gardening. She quickly learned that many plants that thrived there fared poorly in Kiawah. “It took a lot of trial and error,” she said. “Many of the women here knew things about gardening that I wished I knew. I admired their interest and attended a few Garden Club meetings as I was testing out activities here.” She became more involved a few years later and soon ended up as chair. She welcomes Kristin to the chair, saying she “has wonderful ideas and has been handling all club communications.” Debora notes that this garden club is less formal than those some members have belonged to in other communities. That informality suits, and reflects, Kiawah.

For more information, including membership form and fee payment, visit