Friends of Amy B. H. Greenwell Ethnobotanical Garden planning big after purchasing land

  • LAURA RUMINSKI/West Hawaii Today file photo Garden Manager Peter Van Dyke tends to the kalo patch in 2018 at Amy B.H. Greenwell Ethnobotanical Garden in Captain Cook.

KAILUA-KONA — Big plans are in the works now that the Friends of Amy B.H. Greenwell Ethnobotanical Garden purchased the land from the Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum.

Friends group president Maile Melrose says she is “ecstatic” about the finalized purchase, announced Monday. The garden has been closed to the public since 2016.


The Friends are planning a Feb. 29 grand re-opening with a Grow Hawaiian Festival, an annual event hosted before the garden closed.

“We’re going to have botanists and practitioners, and if people want to be part of it, if they have something to offer, let us know,” Melrose said.

The free family event is open to the public.

But before the rebirth celebration, there’s much more to accomplish.

Melrose said the agreement includes a two-year contract that states Bishop and the Friends want to work together for the success of the garden. The museum will continue to pay garden manager Peter Van Dyke’s salary for the next two years. It also might provide guest speakers to give presentations at the South Kona sanctuary.

For that past three-plus years the Friends’ focus was finding out who the new owner would be and just maintaining the garden.

The Friends were able to secure the garden by raising the $1.4 million purchase price using public and private funds, including grants from the state Legacy Land Conservation Program under the Department of Land and Natural Resources and the Community Forest Program under the USDA Forest Service, among others.

Amy Greenwell was born in 1920, so 2020 marks 100 years after her birth. Melrose said the Friends will have celebrations throughout the year honoring the botanist and garden namesake.

“The Friends and community own the garden and our job is going to be to mobilize volunteers to help weed,” she said.

Volunteers meet at the garden at 9 a.m. on Saturdays, don gloves and tools and make their way through the 12-acre estate. All are welcome.

“We are open to ideas,” Melrose said. “Come in on Saturdays and weed and talk to us. Let us know what you want.”

Melrose said the group will be fundraising to get the garden open again.

“We welcome everybody’s presence, help, kokua, aloha, you name it … and money. We welcome money,” she laughed. “We need a new commercial-grade SKAG zero-turning radius lawn mower, a new push mower, termite tent and new roofing.”

As for future plans, Melrose said the sky’s the limit.

“We would like to have cultural practitioners come into the garden, lauhala weavers, poi pounders and so much more,” she said. “I want a butterfly house. We’re going to do it. We’re going to find a way to incorporate that into our garden. We always want to be the Amy B.H. Greenwell Ethnobotanical garden, but we want to be something bigger and better, something new and different as well.”

Melrose said the future of the garden is bright.

“Amy’s legacy has been rescued,” she said.


For more information or to learn about volunteer opportunities, visit

Email Laura Ruminski at

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