Remembering Realtors: Group honors members with first tree in Bluffton's xeriscape garden

May 30, 2010 

Realtors gathered on the banks of the May River in Bluffton last week to remember two colleagues and honor them by planting a tree.

Lowcountry Realtors Marlene Plott and Nanci Buczynski passed away recently, but their memories will live on through the Kousa dogwood that members of the Realtors’ Political Action Committee (RPAC) and their guests dedicated to the women at the park on Wharf Street, adjacent to the Bluffton Oyster Co.

Plott and Buczynski were instrumental in founding the popular "Realtors on the River" cookout in 2007. The annual party at the Bluffton Oyster Factory Park raises money for the Hilton Head Area Association of Realtors' political action committee and allows local Realtors to thank clients and committee supporters, said Rick Saba, current RPAC president.

"They were both great ladies, and they loved it out here," he said.

Charles Sampson dedicated the dogwood tree, which is the first new planting in the town of Bluffton's future xeriscape garden near the historic Garvin Cottage. Xeriscape gardens feature drought resistant plants and have no irrigation, to save money and avoid wasting potable water.

Long popular in Western states, the gardens have become popular in other areas of the country as well.

Tammy Malone, facilities manager for the Town of Bluffton, said all plants need watering until they are established, and the town will water the Realtors’ dogwood tree "definitely through the first year, and we’ll keep an eye on it as we go along." Town officials use a truck to pull a 1,000 gallon water tank on a trailer, stopping to water new plantings, she said.

The rest of the xeriscape garden hasn’t been designed yet, Malone said, so the Realtors’ dogwood will be on its own for a while. Part of the purpose of the xeriscape garden will be to control erosion of the bluff, she said, adding that the park already has a mature tree canopy, natural vegetation and azaleas which have been there for many years.

Bluffton town planner Danny Wilson said he helped the Realtors choose the Chinese dogwood species because it is both drought and disease resistant. Native South Carolina dogwoods have become prone to disease, he said.

The tree will grow 20 to 25 feet tall and will have showy white flowers, red fruit, and peeling bark that looks kind of like lace, Wilson said.

PLANS FOR THE PARK

The town of Bluffton has big plans for the Bluffton Oyster Factory Park. The Garvin cabin, the first Bluffton home owned by freed slaves, has been stabilized and fenced off. The town plans to seek grants to restore it, Malone said. Orange plastic fencing has been installed to prevent people from parking under large trees, which damages their root systems, Wilson said.

“We are trying to encourage people to use the grass parking lot the town put in,” he said.

Work also is being done to improve the road and drainage at the park site, under the direction of town engineer Laura Budak. When this project is complete, plants will be added in shallow ditches called bio-swales, to help filter contaminants from storm water, Wilson said.

The town's goals in upgrading the park are to make it more user-friendly, preserve its historic character and use, improve accessibility to the May River and to improve the quality of storm water leaving the park site and entering the May River, Wilson said.

The Bluffton Oyster Factory Park has restrooms, trash cans, a boat ramp, parking lot, picnic tables and benches.

After the tree dedication, the Realtors enjoyed a delicous meal of Lowcountry boil, barbecue, coleslaw and more, catered by The Bluffton Oyster Co. The Beagles played covers of classic Beatles songs, and the weather was gorgeous.

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