Plant libraries spring up from Fort Walton Beach in Pensacola
A new trend emerging across the Emerald Coast brings together a vast community of people with one thing in common: the love of plants.
The project grew rapidly, with around 13 “plant libraries” emerging in two weeks in homes from North Crestview to Myrtle Grove in Pensacola. Visitors to free libraries are advised to follow a central rule and leave a plant if they pick up a plant.
The idea arose from a niche community in the region. Angela Blake has played a central role in this community and runs a local plant exchange group in Gulf Breeze and Navarre.
“The exchange of plants has been something we’ve been doing together for a long time,” said Blake. “So we all get together and we get our plants that need to be split up or that have babies or that we’ve multiplied, and we put them all together and trade. “
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Plant enthusiasts have recruited several new hobbyists once the COVID-19 pandemic emerged last year. Some plant exchange groups have seen participation increase dramatically, and Hannah Mitchell was one of those now participating.
“I started with a golden pothos and now I have a 12 x 7 foot greenhouse full of probably 300 plants,” Mitchell said.
Blake said that growing plants has become a kind of therapeutic experience for many people, and as things have started to return to normal, she wanted to share this experience with an even larger group.
“I’m a big fan of mental health and talk about it, and I just think a lot of us got involved once COVID-19 hit,” Blake said. “That kind of joy of seeing something flourish because of you is very therapeutic.”
Blake took to local plant communities on Facebook to suggest the creation of libraries and received an overwhelmingly positive response. Although they have never met in person before, Mitchell agreed to participate and operated the First Plant Library on May 28.
Mitchell’s yard now includes a bright blue booth containing around 12 plants outside his home on McFarlan Avenue in Fort Walton Beach.
Her son helped her see the booth boards and her daughter painted the booth bright blue with white lettering. In total, it took them about two hours to build the library, which also includes an old aquarium stand to hold soil and gardening tools.
“If you don’t have a pot, you don’t have to worry. You don’t even need dirt, ”Mitchell said. “You can plant it here and it’s ready to go home. If you don’t have supplies, you’ve never had a plant, you’ve settled here.
She took out 12 plants on the first day, and by the end of the day the stand was already so full that she had to add another table to hold the rest of the plants.
“What most hosts see is that people are leaving more than just ‘leave one, take one’,” said Blake. “They leave three and choose one.”
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Each plant library is designed by the host and has its own character. A library in Navarre was inspired by the television sitcom “Friends”.
Mitchell’s booth features a mix of outdoor and indoor plants, with something new to find every day at one of the area’s busiest plant libraries. A popular item in her library was the papaya trees her daughter grew.
“They’re all different, and that’s what I love about it,” Blake said.
The project had many positive results, Blake said she never anticipated. She was surprised to find that many people spend days visiting each plant stand in their area, some more than 20 miles away. The tours also brought together people from all walks of life.
“The Navarre site hosted several families one day last week, and they were just showing their kids and they were explaining everything, and the kids were leaving with stickers,” Blake said. “So the hosts see amazing interactions and have amazing interactions with their library guests. “
Mitchell said there were a lot of “naysayers” at the start who thought people would take all the plants and not honor the “take one, leave one” system. But so far none of the hosts have had any problems. Most are full of plants, she says.
“It’s the most heartwarming thing to see,” Blake said. “I saw the best of humanity, and we needed it. People have appreciated me so much, as have all of our hosts and the community in general. “
While not sure where the project will go in the future, Blake said she hopes to continue to develop it and help more people build their own plant library.
“It’s just a way of getting around, and we did it,” Blake said. “But if we can scale it up to include more of the community, I think it’s a great time for people to come together.”
To learn more about how to contribute, follow the Emerald Coast Plant Libraries Group on Facebook or Instagram.
This is where you can find the libraries:
- Fort Walton Beach: 940 McFarlan Avenue.
- Navarre: 2217 Avenida de Sol
- Navarre: 6906 Calle de Bandoledo
- Crestview: 6319 Bethany Drive
- Crestview: 301 Runnymeade Drive
- Pensacola: 8100 Crystal Wells Place
- Pensacola: 621 N. 79th Ave.
- Pensacola: 7700 Lancelot Drive
- Pensacola: 4519 Place Northpointe
- Pensacola: 2517 Sea Robin Road
- Mary Esther: 86 Stowe Road
- Rhythm: 4147 Charles Circle
- Shalimar: 55, Berwick circle