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Arizona Columbine Garden Club

Our History

Between 1940 and 1950 the population of Phoenix grew from 65,000 to 101,000 people. Phoenix was still a relatively small town inhabited by transplants from other parts of the United States along with a few stalwarts who were already second and third generation natives. The population swelled post World War II. It was at that time, Mrs. Ned (Carmela) Creighton, a member of The Arizona Federation of Garden Clubs, an umbrella organization in Phoenix that governed the garden clubs throughout the Valley, thought the increasing population in Phoenix could benefit from another garden club. Carmela gathered together ten ladies from North Central and Northeast Phoenix in October of 1946 who wanted to “learn how to beautify their homes with flowers.” It was this group of women who founded Columbine Garden Club (CGC). Ruth McKesson was elected as the first president. More members were added as the group expanded to 20 within the first year.

The Desert Botanical Garden (DBG) had been struggling to exist for years since its inception in the late 1920s. During the war, because of lack of funding and interest, the fledgling garden had to close its doors. Thanks to Gertrude Webster, one of the original garden founders, who bequeathed her entire fortune to DBG, the garden opened again after the war and began to flourish. Carmela Creighton and her newly formed garden club were supporters of the garden from the very beginning. Carmela was asked to speak at the dedication. CGC members participated in the first annual cactus show (held to "increase the knowledge and interest in indigenous cacti") at DBG in February, 1948. Several Columbine members won blue ribbons at the show. Carmela was quoted in The Arizona Republic "Mrs. Creighton lauded the garden founders for affording members of various garden clubs such a place to study American plant life. She expressed the sentiment that it was a shame that so few people knew so little about Arizona flora."

Over the second half of the 20th century, Columbine Garden Club grew and thrived as did Desert Botanical Garden. Club members began to take an active part in the preservation and beautification of Phoenix. Members of Columbine planted trees, supported and created hospital and museum gardens throughout the city, educated members about desert flora, and participated in flower shows. Margaret Kober, a Columbine member since 1947 and later, president of Columbine Garden Club, was chosen in 1951 to be the first female member of the Phoenix City Council. She headed the Governor's Commission on the Arizona Beauty for the Preservation of Camelback Mountain Project and became a major force in stopping the development of homes up the summit of Camelback Mountain. The first woman mayor of Phoenix, Margaret Hance was also a Columbine member. Mayor Margy (1976-1981) is called the “Mother of the Phoenix Mountain Preserve” as it was she who took action to protect and preserve all the mountains and desert parks within the city from destructive development. A Phoenix city park is named in her honor.

In 1989 Columbine Garden Club became a member of The Garden Club of America (GCA). Past President Julie Louis and President Phyllis Carson led the transition as Columbine become a member club of the national organization. Along with the prestige of belonging to GCA, Columbine members broadened their interests beyond floral design and horticulture to include conservation, photography, garden history and design and national affairs and legislation concerning preservation and conservation.

Club membership expanded to 35 active members and a growing number of active affiliates. Now linked with GCA, Columbine leaders attended annual meetings and conferences and Columbine members immediately began to serve on national GCA committees.

In 2018 Columbine Garden Club added "Arizona" to its name to distinguish itself from another state’s flower. The Arizona Columbine, the red and yellow aquilegia desertorum, grows in the high deserts of Arizona including here in Maricopa County. 

The club has financially supported The Nature Conservancy, Heard Museum, Save Our Mountains Foundation, Audubon Society, The Grand Canyon Trust and Arizona Historical Society. However, throughout its 75 years as a garden club, Desert Botanical Garden has been constant in garden club interest and support.

Arizona Columbine Garden Club has helped to educate others about desert flora as our founder Carmela Creighton had wished. Columbine has donated over $100,000 to DBG, including $75,000 in 2018 for Bay 3 which houses rare plants.  Also in 2018, Columbine nominated and received the GCA Montine McDaniel Freeman Medal Special Recognition Award for the saguaro gigantea indigenous only to the Sonoran Desert. In 2020, nominated by Arizona Columbine Garden Club, Desert Botanical Garden received the very prestigious GCA Helen Payne Luquer Medal for excellence in botany.

The only GCA garden club in Arizona, the members of Arizona Columbine celebrated their seventy-five year Diamond Jubilee in 2022. This small group of dedicated women take great pride in knowing that over the course of their history, they have educated themselves and others in the community to appreciate the beauty and fragility of the Sonoran Desert; to protect our native plant species; and to support the conservation of our natural resources.


February, 1948

A table top display, featuring prickly pear cactus, an entry in the first annual cactus show sponsored by the Arizona Republic, is admired by Mrs. Ned Creighton, past president of the Arizona Federation of Garden Clubs and founder of Columbine Garden Club, who spoke at the dedication ceremonies at the Arizona Botanical Gardens in Papago Park.


December 9, 1954

Mrs. Edward A, Marshall, Mrs. Arthur Webster and Mrs. Russ Lyon, all members of Columbine Garden Club, purchased shrubs to be planted on the St. Luke’s Hospital grounds.


May 1955

Members of Columbine Garden Club lunched at the Westward Ho Hotel in hats made of fresh flowers. Pictured are the prize winners left to right Ms. Leslie Kober, Mrs. Ned Creighton, and Mrs. James Whitelaw.

April 1973

Watching Mrs. C.A. Carson III water one of the six evergreen flowering pear trees donated by Columbine Garden Club for planting at Granada Park are (from left) Allen Jewell, parks supervisor, Mrs. T.A. Goodnight, and Mrs. James B. Phillips, club president.

Arizona Columbine Garden Club

Founded in 1946. Member of Garden Club of America since 1989.

The purpose of the Arizona Columbine Garden Club is to stimulate the knowledge and love of gardening, aid in the protection of native trees, plants and shrubs, and restore, improve and protect the quality of the environment through programs and action in the fields of conservation, civic improvement and education.

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