Green Hills: Photographers’ alert!
By Daniel Barringer, Preserve Manager.
Right now, this weekend, is your best chance ever to see the full display of black-eyed Susans we planted in the fields at Green Hills. The flowers are at peak bloom right now, and this will be the only year to see the plants in these numbers.
The wildflowers, though perennial, are serving as a nurse crop for the native warm-season grasses that we also planted here. These fields are enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP), a federal, state, and private partnership that helps landowners to install and maintain vegetation to improve water quality and wildlife habitat. The program establishes a contract that requires us to maintain the fields to an agreed-upon specification.
There will always be wildflowers in these fields, but never at the density they are now since the warm-season grasses are slower to get themselves established (they are growing roots this year, tops will grow more vigorously next year). Next year the grasses will be taller than the black-eyed Susan, partially hiding it from our view (but not from pollinators). Warm-season grasses are called that because they thrive during the heat of mid-summer, not like those in our lawns that look best in spring and fall.
I am very proud of this project. It is the most visible restoration project I have undertaken in my 25 years at Natural Lands. Much of our land stewardship involves maintenance, “editing” the vegetation on the landscape—visible mostly when it fails to get done, or is done poorly. This project is putting something major back on the land, replacing fields of soybeans with native grasslands. It is also perhaps the largest restoration Natural Lands has ever done.
I am grateful to CREP and the agencies that administer it (Farm Service Agency and the Berks County Natural Resources Conservation Service). Also to Aubrey Smith who drove the tractor and seeder for most of these fields, and the staff who worked behind the scenes to agree upon the seed mix and get equipment on site. Mike and Jan Slater collected and donated local wildflower seed that we added to the commercial mix.
I hope you get a chance to come to Green Hills and see these vistas for yourself!