3 local growers share their stories, secrets, recipes

greenhhi32It’s March. That means it’s the time of year that gardeners across Hilton Head Island and Bluffton, long itching to dig in the soil again, will be pulling out their hoes and trowels and set about planting their first crop of the new year.

Some will plant their garden in their backyard. But many others without a back yard, or with one too small to fit their ambitions, have the opportunity to turn to a community garden where, for a fee, they can plant to their heart’s content in their very own vegetable patch — or double up with two.

greenhhi20On Hilton Head Island, it’s hard to ignore the variety of birds one sees, from shorebirds to warblers and wrens.

For some, a passing observation is sufficient: “I saw a big white bird in the marsh.”

Conversely, Audubon Society members might note, “I saw an ibis. I noticed it was a juvenile because its beak wasn’t deep red yet.”

Providing that extra layer of knowledge is what the Hilton Head Island Audubon Society does through its monthly programs, nature walks through the Audubon Newhall Preserve, field trips and “Ecobon” newsletter, said Rick Riebesell, chapter president.

“One of the things we try to do is to get people involved in understanding that our natural world is something we have to protect,” Riebesell said. “Why has nature reacted this way? Once you’ve hit that point -- that I should pay attention -- you need knowledge.”

greenhhi19If Old Town is the heart of Bluffton, the May River is its soul.

The meandering 15-mile long river, just south of Old Town Bluffs, has been an integral part of Bluffton since it was established as a formal town in 1825.

The river, which unlike most rivers, has no high ground headwaters that feed fresh water from upper streams and creeks.

Instead it depends on tidal shifts that flush it out with saltwater from its down river mouth at the Calibogue Sound and the Atlantic Ocean.

This flow has helped make the May River an oasis for oysters, shrimp, crabs and saltwater fin fish.

greenhhi18A federally funded study is investigating the economic benefits of beach renourishment projects using outer continental sand resources along the Carolinas Coast.

The $260,000 study funded by the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management has three components.

One, what effect does renourishment have on property values next to the beaches? Two, do beach improvements create benefits for visitors, and if so, how do these benefits translate into increased use value and changes in economic expenditures? Three, do renourishment projects result in higher tax revenues and employment further inland?

greenhhi16Hilton Head Island expects to be designated an MS4 community

One of the great attractions of living on Hilton Head Island is our abundance of water bodies: creeks, sounds, the ocean, wetlands and ponds that we all love to explore, photograph, swim in and fish in.

Living near the water can create challenges, however, in keeping those water bodies clean and healthy. The impervious surfaces (surfaces that do not allow water to pass through them) in our developments create storm water runoff that carries pollutants such as oils, greases, fertilizers, pesticides, bacteria and litter into our waters.

For tidal creeks and other salt waters, the sheer volume of rain water runoff can cause drops in salinity and the death of oysters, shrimp, crabs and other marine animals. Over time, all of this can degrade the quality of our water bodies and reduce the number of marine organisms that can live there.


Those trees jutting skyward in shopping center parking lots around Hilton Head Island and the tree shaded neighborhoods which, together, make the town so appealing are a result of a determined effort by the island’s official family since soon after its incorporation 30 years ago to keep it a place of beauty.

The intervening years saw immense development, but it wasn’t unbridled and, through it all, Hilton Head Island zealously protected its trees.

The first guardian and tree guru was Sally Krebs, a biologist by training and self-professed nature lover, who oversaw the writing of the tree ordinance in 1986 as her first job as the new natural resources administrator for the town, a post she held for 25 years.

protectorstrees2The Tailbird Oak, just inside the back gate to the Hilton Head Plantation, has long been regarded as the oldest oak tree on Hilton Head Island. Or is it?

Not so fast, says Sally Krebs, for 25 years the town’s natural resources administrator in charge of protecting the island’s trees. She suggests other, larger oaks, may be older.

The Tailbird Oak stands on what used to be the Tailbird plantation on Skull Creek that was given to Lt. John Tailbird, of the Patriot Militia, by his father Henry Tailbird, as a wedding present when he married Many Ann Ladson in 1778.

protectorstrees3The biggest tree Lee Edwards ever transplanted with his landscaping business was a Live oak that was 45 fee T tall and 40 fee T wide.

Edwards, president of The Greenery, on Hilton Head Island, said he picked up the tree at the farm of a tree grower in Orangeburg, and trucked it to its new home in the Sea Pines Plantation. The crane that lifted the tree had a built-in scale which showed the tree weighed 47,000 pounds, Edwards reported.

Asked how he managed to transport a tree of that size, Edwards said his crew carefully wrapped the branches to compact the tree to 22 to 23 feet wide. “That’s the widest load allowed on the highway,” he explained, “and that’s the widest it could be to get through the Sea Pines gate.”

sailingEvery Wednesday afternoon a group of hearty sailors meet up at the Windmill Harbor Marina. Shortly thereafter up to eight identical 20 foot pure sailing yachts enter the lock at the exit of the marina and a few minutes later are hoisting the sails in the lovely Calibogue Sound.

Few people realize that the protected waters in the Calibogue and Port Royal sounds — part of the Intercostal Waterway — are some of the East Coast’s best sailing grounds.

A group of sailors decided to take advantage of this unique opportunity and formed a fleet of identical sailing yachts that would be easy and safe to operate but exciting enough to conduct racing activities as well.

naturehhi“How I wish that somewhere there existed an island for those who are wise and of good will.”
– Albert Einstein

FORTUNE HAS BESTOWED upon me the opportunity to spend much of my life on islands. First, Cuba (pre-Fidel), then four decades on Hilton Head Island interspersed with a stint on Oahu, Hawaii. There is something about island living. Not just the sparkling sea, soft moist air, or laid-back lifestyle. What One Thing makes living on this island — Hilton Head — so desired, so enriching? To discover the secret, we will take a Walkabout — a meandering, maybe mystical, and definitely eyeopening journey of discovery across this grand old isle. Perhaps we shall find the One Thing, the True Secret Place — and in the process, rediscover ourselves.