By Anya TikkaMILFORD – This August, former Pennsylvania Governor and pioneer of the American conservation movement Gifford Pinchot would have turned 150.
The caretakers of he and his wife's former Grey Towers residency in Milford have celebrated that upcoming anniversary by planting 1,500 plugs at the National Historic Site.
About 30 volunteers from area garden clubs were at the property this past weekend planting the native wildflowers in an attempt to bring back the garden that once overlooked the Delaware River on the majestic site.
The Grey Towers Heritage Association and the US Forest Service organized the event.
Pinchot was the first head of the U.S. Forest Service under President Theodore Roosevelt when Roosevelt ushered in the country's conservation movement by protecting millions of acres of forests and parkland.
Forest Service Horticulturist Elizabeth Hawke took part in planting the plugs with the volunteers and picking which ones would best reflect those that grew during the Pinchot family's time. “I chose the plants based on what would have grown here at Cornelia Pinchot’s time,” Hawke said.
While standing on the slopes at the property's historic apple orchard, she said she used about 10 varieties of plants, all native wildflowers.
Among the varieties planted were aster, bee balm, coreopsis, milkweed, and veronica.
Grey Towers Heritage Association’s board member and chair of the event Donna Hannigan said in an email that the plants were chosen because they “enhance the aesthetics of the site and improve the natural landscape for native pollinators-bees, butterflies, moths, bats and birds- which play a critical role in sustaining ecosystems and provide essential services to American agriculture. Another benefit is reducing the spread of non-native invasive plants. They also reduce energy consumption and pollution by limiting the need for mowing and pesticides."
The site will become part of an educational demonstration site.
The Grey Towers Heritage Association raised funds for the planting project through its 8k race.
Volunteers from throughout the tri-state area came to help plant the wildflower plugs by digging and working hard.
Rick and Connie Harrity, who have a residence in Milford stopped for a moment to say they thought it was a great idea and they were happy to help.
Interim Grey Towers Grounds Director Robert Sanchez was pitching in with the planting along with some other Grey Tower and NPS employees.
“We chose 1,500 plants because this year is Gifford Pinchot's 150th anniversary,” Sanchez said.
“We wanted to commemorate it.”Nathan Mayberg contributed to this report