A new name for an old concept? On our way to Minneapolis for the memorial service for a dear old friend, Jeff Rice, we listened to Science Friday on WPR. One of the items discussed was the Texas gardening concept called Pocket Prairies. What a novel idea! What a great name to get the attention of someone new to native landscaping! So of course I had to research the concept more.
According to Katy Prairie Conservancy (KPC), “a pocket prairie is, typically, a small (often under 1 acre), urban planting featuring plants native to the highly imperiled coastal prairie ecosystem of Texas and Louisiana.
There really isn’t a lower limit to the size of these plantings nor is there any shape that they need take. They can be more or less formalized based on your aesthetic tastes, your neighbors receptivity to native plants, plant availability, ease of maintenance (more formalized plantings will need more maintenance), etc.” (KPC)
They recommend eight steps which follow very similarly to the guidelines promoted by Wild Ones: Native Plants, Natural Landscapes. They are:
- Select and assess the site — light, size, border and document
- Prepare the site — remove existing vegetation by sod-cutting, smothering or herbiciding
- Select local native plant forb and grass species — purchase plants from local native plant nurseries, native plant sales or mail-order native plant nurseries, or rescue plants from, with permission, from prairie remnants in danger of destruction or collect seed, with permission, from locally established prairies
- Plant — enlist friends, family, neighbors, and local groups to assist you with the planting
- Phenology — record your observations as the garden grows: journal, blog, Flickr, etc
- Share your Pocket Prairie’s story — tell your friends, family and neighbors about your garden’s success, become a citizen scientist, offer tours, share on-line: Facebook, Instagram, Pintrest, etc
- Maintain the site — give it some TLC* the first few years, remove invasive species always
- Teach — volunteer with a local native plant organization which helps to teach the community about the benefits of using native plants in landscaping
Although the radio interview referenced only Texas as a source for pocket prairies, I did find the term used in conjunction with a few other states. If this hasn’t become a well-know term in your state, help spread the word — encourage everyone who doesn’t already have a prairie planting, to plant a pocket prairie!!
*TLC stands for tender loving care: as necessary, provide mulch and water, and pull competitive weeds until seedling root systems are substantial enough to get all their needs from their own environment.
See also BRASH: Border, Recognize the Rights of Others, Advertize, Start Small, Humanize
Wild Ones Landscaping with Native Plants, 4th Edition is a how-to booklet on becoming a native plant gardening enthusiast.
There’s also a great children’s book by Phillis Root with marvelous illustrations by Betsy Bowen entitled Plant a Pocket of Prairie. Although we don’t have kids, I bought the book just for the illustrations; makes a wonderful coffee table book.