Amy BH Greenwell Botanical Garden Will Live on After Sale

November 26, 2019, 8:23 AM HST
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Photo: Amy B.H. Greenwell Enthobotanical Garden website.

From now on, the Amy B.H. Greenwell Ethnobotanical Garden is going to get by with a little help from its friends — literally.

The Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum on Monday completed the sale of the Garden to a Kona-based nonprofit, Friends of Amy B.H. Greenwell Ethnobotanical Garden. Closed to the public since January of 2016, the sale will mean the revitalization and reopening of the Garden as an educational and cultural resource, according to a Bishop Museum press release.

“This purchase represents a remarkable group effort,” said Maile Melrose, president of Friends. “When the Garden closed, our Friends organization sprang into existence, determined to open the Garden’s gates once more. Our board members decided to think big, to apply for huge grants and to never give up hope. Wonderful volunteers have showed up regularly to attack the weeds. Without their help, our garden would be a jungle by now.”

The Friends raised the $1.4 million dollar purchase price using public and private funds, including grants from the state of Hawaiʻi’s Legacy Land Conservation Program under the Department of Land and Natural Resources and the Community Forest Program under the USDA Forest Service.

Funds were also granted by the Atherton Family Foundation and Cooke Foundation, Ltd. The County of Hawaiʻi is providing financial support from the Public Access, Open Space and Natural Resources Conservation (PONC) Fund through the purchase of conservation easements, which will help permanently protect and preserve the Garden, the release continued.


Cades Schutte LLP has actively supported the Friends since its founding through pro bono legal work necessary for establishing a nonprofit and navigating this complicated real estate transaction.


“Melanie Ide’s decision to come to Kona in 2018 to meet with us and to share her vision of the Museum’s future was a turning point for our organization,” Melrose said. “Having Bishop Museum as an ally changed everything. It has been fantastic. But, the silver lining after these years of uncertainty is the Garden now belongs to us, the entire community, and it can never be sold — ever.”

“We are full of gratitude for the tremendous effort made by the Friends to secure the future of the Garden,” said Ide, president and CEO of Bishop Museum. “Our goal now is to build a lasting and fruitful partnership that will honor Amy Greenwell’s vision, utilize all of the Garden’s unique assets, support its educational and conservation efforts and reactivate the Garden as a vibrant community resource.”

Overlooking Kealakekua Bay, this historic property includes five parcels of land and preserves accessible and well-explained archaeological features of the pre-Cook Kona Agricultural Field System.


The Garden contains three separate pieces consisting of Amy Greenwell’s former residence and garden, the nursery and garage piece, and the modern Visitor Center and parking lot site. Combined as one unit, these 12 acres are now under federal protection as a community forest, the first ever designated in the Pacific region by the USDA Forest Service, the release said.

The purchase also includes Paʻikapahu Heiau, located in a parcel in Kinue Terrace, and one vacant lot on Lilikoʻi Lane.

This unique garden, which has hosted three generations of archaeological research, was designed in four biogeographical zones to feature Hawaiian and canoe plants within a compact space of just under 12 acres.

Today, plants that thrive at sea level sprout in sandy beds at the Garden’s makai boundary: palms, creeping morning glories, kou and milo trees and clumps of pili grass.

Meandering paths lead past dryland forest shrubs and through tidy agricultural plots of kalo and sweet potatoes, wauke and bananas. Towering breadfruit trees shade low stone walls built by Kona’s first gardeners, Polynesian pioneers who transformed the land into a breadbasket to support a new Hawaiian culture.

At the mauka edge, koa trees and maile vines evoke another world, one of canoe builders and bird catchers. Museum botanists created a treasure chest of living plants that took years to grow and reach maturity.

The date of the Garden’s reopening has not yet been released.

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