ORANGEBURG - In its 75 years of existence, Orangeburg's Shady Grove Plantation and Nursery has shipped its trees to Long Island, N.Y., Las Vegas, the White House and Walt Disney World.
Its latest shipment is the farthest yet.
The nursery has shipped more than 30 crape myrtle trees to Istanbul, Turkey, for use by that city's parks and recreation department. The trees were shipped out of the Port of Savannah in seven 40-foot-long open-top containers. The entire shipment process and costs were handled by the city of Istanbul.
It is the business's first international shipment.
"We are excited, if all this goes well, about them buying more trees from us and maybe this will open the door for more international sales," Shady Grove Manager Jeb Brailsford said. "It will take the right customer willing to pay for everything."
Brailsford said the cost of the shipment is estimated to be about $7,000 to $10,000 a container.
And then there is the paperwork and clearance needed for customs.
"It was very tedious," Brailsford said. "There were a lot of conversations, emails, meetings with Clemson Extension and the USDA (U.S. Department of Agriculture). It was tremendous in trying to go through."
Brailsford said Shady Grove had to receive a phytosanitary certificate approved by the USDA attesting that the plants meet import requirements.
"That was a challenge," Brailsford said. "You have to meet certain criteria to get a plant out of quarantine in Turkey."
The sale stemmed from contact sales manager Brian Wilson made with two men from Istanbul at a tree and nursery trade show in Baltimore, Md., last year.
"We had a booth set up and they came across our booth," Brailsford said.
The interest of the men was piqued. At the same show this year, they reaffirmed their intent to purchase trees.
"We were up in the air whether this would go through, but they wired us the deposit," Brailsford said. "These guys are serious."
Brailsford said the men were particularly attracted to Shady Grove's selection of crape myrtles.
"We beat out other nurseries because we had so many larger crape myrtles than you typically would see," he said. The nursery has crape myrtles over 20 feet tall.
"They wanted them as big as they could get," he said.
The last container of trees was loaded Wednesday. The trees were shipped with dirt and their root balls.
"We have never loaded an open-top container," Brailsford said. "We got a 15-foot crane that allowed us to get the trees in the air and set them as they needed to be."
The boat ride will take longer than two weeks, Brailsford said. "But they have been buying crape myrtles from China. The boat ride is 30 days in China. The time is cut in half."
As a result, he does not foresee any problems with the shipment.
Shady Grove is known for its ability to deliver large trees.
In November, it planted a live oak on the University of South Carolina's Horseshoe.
The 18,000-pound, 20-foot tall live oak replaced a 150-year-old, 60-foot tall live oak. The previous tree was struck by lightning and was considered a safety hazard.
Brailsford said the nursery is continuing to provide its trees to Long Island estates and to Scana Corp. to help beautify its Cayce headquarters.
Brailsford said the nursery has even had discussions with Auburn University about replacing the school's iconic oak trees that were poisoned in 2010. He said the matter is still in the discussion phase as the university has said it would not replant any trees until the spring of 2015.