Pocket Prairies – small urban gardens featuring native plants – are gaining popularity and Gulfport is taking part.
City of Gulfport Horticulturist Toffer Ross and Gulfport Public Library Youth Services Librarian Cailey Klasson are working on a special project to replace high-maintenance grass behind the library with a native foliage collaboration.
“The main goal of our ‘pocket prairie’ is for it to be used as a teaching garden to children and adults once we can start in-person programming back up,” said Klasson. “I’d like to use the space during our K-5th grade science club once that can continue and also start an informal monthly gardening meetup.”
The Gulfport Library Pocket Prairie will be a four-quadrant space featuring plant life from Florida meadows, wetlands, pinelands and coastal dune environments.
The plan is for each quadrant to be separated by 100% recycled borders and treated shells will pave the designated walkway.
It may not look like much now, but Ross and Klasson have spent quite a few late-summer afternoons creating Gulfport’s newest interactive outdoor classroom.
“In addition to adding a little natural beauty to the property, we want to teach the importance of planting Florida natives and specifically natives that will grow in this zone in Florida – since, as we know, Florida has a broad climate range,” said Klasson. “Our hope is that by getting people interested in planting native species they will also become interested in how this helps improve the ecosystem.”
Klasson plans to teach the outdoor curriculum on topics such as the importance of planting natives to benefit pollinators (butterflies, bees, and birds), and how to create a lawn that doesn’t rely on fertilizers.
Registration isn’t necessary. Toffer and Klasson encourage all who wander to stop by and enjoy the space, especially when it’s a little more established.
To Florida native plant purists, Ross says “there may be some species planted that are arguably not native, per se, but they’re not invasive. They’re ornamental and complimentary.”