April 2016

The Greenery, Inc.: Meaningful Giving

Author: Kitty Bartell

Lee Edwards, president of The Greenery Inc., addresses the landscaping team after the Arts Center beautification project.

Kathleen Bateson, CEO of the Arts Center of Coastal Carolina, thanks the volunteers for their efforts.

On the morning of February 25, a huge contingent of Greenery employees descended upon the Arts Center of Coastal Carolina to give it a fresh new look. They went about the business of putting in over 3000 plants, spreading two giant truckloads of mulch and putting down new sod.


This all really started in Charleston,” said Lee Edwards, president of The Greenery, Inc. renowned Hilton Head Island-based landscape maintenance and construction company, referring to the first time they took on a community-centered project designed to give back in a truly meaningful way.

“I opened our company up there [in Charleston],” he said. “Some friends of mine had a little organization where they did big brother-type mentoring at an elementary school downtown. The school had a terrible little dirt playground. They said we ought to raise some money for a new playground. I got wind of it and said that’s what I do; I build parks and playgrounds. I asked if they needed any help with budgeting or design. They didn’t really know what they were doing, so I joined them. A local landscape architecture firm donated the design. They needed new drainage and new sidewalks. The group raised a lot of money. Then we came in and put the finishing touches on it. We did all the drainage and sidewalks. A playground company came in and put in the playground equipment; then we came in and did the big one-day landscaping and re-sodding.”

The Charleston project kick-started what has become about an every-other-year project for The Greenery, always on the lookout for something they can do to make a pretty immediate impact in the community. “We like to make a big event out of it where we can bring all our people out,” Edwards said. With about 450 team members in the Hilton Head area and Beaufort County and 200 in Charleston, bringing the team out to make a one-day impact on a local neighborhood or venue can certainly change the face of things.

Early in 2016, just such a project was brought to their attention. “This all started about a month ago,” Edwards said in mid-February. “A Greenery team member brought us the idea to make a donation to the Arts Center of Coastal Carolina on Hilton Head Island. The idea started as just a donation or quick project. We decided, let’s re-landscape the place. We’ll donate the re-landscaping and the maintenance for an entire year. It just all came together. They didn’t come to us; they didn’t ask us.

“The Arts Center is a big part of our community,” Edwards said. After a day of tree trimming donated by Tree Wise Men and Allcare Tree Surgery and some preliminary work by smaller crews, the company-wide renovation event took place on February 25, with a huge contingent of Greenery employees descending on the mid-island site. “We put in over 3,000 plants with the help of partners like Green Goods, who reduced some prices on trees for us. We ripped out all the shrubs that were likely the plants that went in when the Arts Center was first built. We re-did all around the building, the parking lot islands, and around the entrances and signs. We brought in two giant truckloads of mulch, and put in new sod donated by Green Acres Turf Farm. I hope that people who go by say wow, what a difference.”

Photography by Tom Jenkins
Amy Metzger, Director of First Impressions at the Greenery, lends a helping hand.

Opened in 1973 by his parents Berry and Ruthie Edwards, The Greenery has been a big part of the ongoing beautification of Hilton Head Island. Modern-day founding father Charles Fraser suggested that the one thing missing in the burgeoning Lowcountry community was a landscaping company. The Edwards took opportunity in-hand, and today their company continues to fulfill their purpose—enhancing people’s lives through beautiful landscaping. “We basically want to make people happy,” Edwards said.

Giving back is built into the DNA of The Greenery. “We’re 100-percent employee owned,” Edwards said. “My parents started the company, created the employee stock ownership plan, and then sold the ESOP to the employees. We’ve got deep roots here, and just celebrated our forty-third anniversary. We budget about $50,000 a year for charitable giving. Last year we didn’t do a big project and we still met our budget.”

Previous company-wide projects were the Bluffton Affordable House Project and the Spanish Moss Trail in Beaufort. “The Town of Bluffton had gotten some grants to build six affordable houses. They were trying to revitalize the neighborhood. They were going to put out the landscaping for bid, so I went to the town manager who was heading up the project and suggested we donate the landscape. We made that a big company-wide effort, and brought in about 200 people and landscaped all six houses in one morning,” Edwards said.

“The Spanish Moss Trail is an old railroad bed in Beaufort turned into a linear park. When they were getting it kicked off, they had some grants to do multiple sections, and then they had this park that they were going to have landscaped. Our Bluffton branch manager came to me and said this was a really neat project. We donated all the labor and got some other vendors to donate. It was a group effort. We had about 150 people down there. Volunteers came out. People from the city came out. The day coincided with their grand opening.”

In addition to maintenance and construction, The Greenery has a charming, beautifully-stocked retail nursery and gift shop (with a fascinating history all its own), serving the needs of gardeners and plant aficionados. “We have a really good staff at our retail shop. Most are gardeners themselves with a great deal of local knowledge; and what they don’t know, they know how to find out and follow-up,” Edwards said. “Something we take a lot of pride in is the fact that we’re employee-owned. Our employees really do take an ownership mentality.”

The current generation of employees at The Greenery, Inc. have put the bull’s eye of giving directly in their sights, showing up en masse, making a big impact with shovels, and muscle, and a love for their work and their communities. 

The Greenery, Inc. has branches on Hilton Head Island (843) 785-3848, in Beaufort (843) 379-5263, Savannah (912) 450-3000, Charleston (843) 884-0084, Hardeeville, and in Palmetto Bluff. For more information, please visit thegreeneryinc.com.

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