April 2019

The Greens (and Reds and Whites) of Harbour Town: How The Greenery gets Sea Pines camera-ready for the RBC Heritage

Author: Barry Kaufman | Photographer: M.Kat Photography


Preparations for the color in Sea Pines begin months in advance.

Heritage week, in general, is the busiest time of the year on Hilton Head Island. For Lee Edwards, that’s been true since he was a kid selling lemonade along the eighteenth fairway. “I made $100 over the course of three to four days, which is a fortune for an eight-year-old,” he said.

His juice-slinging days might be behind him, but as president and CEO of The Greenery, he’s still finding a way to clean up at the Heritage. It’s just that these days, the cleaning up is slightly more literal. “During the tournament, we have people out there from 5 a.m. to 2 a.m. landscaping, cleaning, emptying garbage cans, keeping the Harbour Town area clean, swapping out flowers … it’s something we’re excited about,” he said. “We’re proud of it.”

For years, the RBC Heritage has brought the eyes of the world and the cameras of CBS television to Sea Pines, showcasing our lush natural beauty. And for years, The Greenery has made it their mission to make that lush natural beauty the star of the show. Every crisply-edged flower bed, every delicate geranium that lights up TV screens is the result of nearly a year’s worth of effort on the part of The Greenery.

“It starts off basically at the end of the Heritage,” Field Operations Manager Allan Klingel said. “We try to go through everything we did last year and make it better for the following year.”

You may notice the geraniums lining the fairways of Harbour Town Golf Links and think that The Greenery is simply tasked with maintaining them. In fact, those geraniums are planted fresh every year for the tournament, a task that requires extensive advance planning.

“We do the designs for the color around Harbour Town eight to nine months in advance,” Seasonal Color Manager Christina Harden said. “The designs, the orders, the scheduling, all of that happens then. It takes a long time for our growers to procure plants and then begin growing them three to four months in advance.”

Those famous Heritage geraniums are grown in South Carolina, especially for the tournament, in coordination with The Greenery. Planted around the first week in January, they are grown under painstakingly precise conditions to ensure that they’ll be at their peak of beauty once Heritage rolls around.

“We’re constantly watching the weather—not just the week or two before, but months before,” Hilton Head Regional Manager Jim van Dijk said. “Christina and her team do a lot of communicating with our plant vendors, and if we see the weather is going to do one thing or another that may force the plants to mature faster, we communicate on changing the greenhouse conditions. We require a specific window on how they’re grown and when they will be at full color impact.”

As tireless as they are in ensuring a perfect bloom every year, The Greenery even makes sure that those blooms look as good in person as they do on television screens around the world. “When we first started, the flower itself was an extremely deep red, almost a maroon,” said van Dijk. “As they introduced more of the green filtering, it started showing up funky on TV screens.”

That funkiness was the result of advances in TV color filtering technology designed to tone down the vibrancy of fairways and greens on HD screens. “It was a beautiful plant in front of your eyes. But once they put the filter on it, it was sort of a shock.”
The team at The Greenery was quick to adapt, and a new variety of geranium was found that looks nearly identical to the naked eye, but shows up on your 4K screen as a vibrant red.

It’s an amazing balancing act of attention to detail and sheer volume. The Greenery installs somewhere in the neighborhood of 3,000 geraniums, and more than 5,000 plants total, specifically for the tournament. And all of it needs to be done in the narrowest of timeframes before play starts.

“We want the plants at their healthiest, so getting them in early doesn’t help. We’d rather get them straight from the grower and put them into the ground than have to baby them for a couple of extra weeks,” Klingel said. Everything from Sea Pines’ native deer to passersby who want to pick a few bouquets for their table top can ravage the flowers if they’re out too early, plus there’s the fact that The Greenery has specific instructions for watering the plants once they’re in place.

“The PGA TOUR puts very strict restraints on how much water is on the golf course during the tournament, so we have to hand-water the flowers when they’re installed,” Klingel explained.

In addition to the geraniums and all those flower beds, The Greenery is tasked with beautifying everything from Harbour Town to the skyboxes and ensuring that beauty remains throughout the week. It requires meticulous planning and vigorous attention to detail, not to mention a small army of Greenery staff who do a sweep of the whole course—replanting, watering and tidying up—every morning before play starts and every afternoon once play ends.

But to see those beautiful flowers in that signature shade of red along the course makes it all worth it. “We try to do everything we can to deliver the best fan experience we can,” van Dijk said. 

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