Monthly Archives: August 2012

Fungi Frolick

One of the pleasures my wife and I share, is strolling through the moss garden after rain showers have awakened the fungi. Spotting the colorful but brief visitors and admiring their presentation in the ocean of green mosses.

When detected, I often ease their eruption by parting the dense moss growth which can be strong enough to disfigure the determined sprouts.

 

Sometimes their debut is over by the next day, their glory shortened by a hungry squirrel, but often their persistence is an allure lasting days as their hues shift with maturity.

Mushrooms are the fruiting bodies of mycelia, fibrous primitive soil dwelling hyphae. They are great contributors to the soils, increasing the efficiency of water and nutrient absorption for most plants and aiding in decomposition.

Gardeners’ are just beginning to appreciate the role of mycelia in their soils and even purchasing powdered mycorrhizal fungi as a soil additive.

Perhaps the long connection between toadstools and the folklore of Faeries and the Moss People are the most intriguing. Sparking the imagination of young and old is as important to encouraging good land stewardship as anything.

David Spain a.k.a. Moss Rock

 One had a lovely face,
and two or three had charm,
But charm and face were in vain
Because the mountain grass
Cannot but keep the form
Where the mountain hare has lain.
~ W. B. Yeats
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Follow Moss and Stone Gardens – Where Moss Rocks! on Twitter @Moss_Rocks and our Facebook page Moss and Stone Gardens – Where Moss Rocks!

To learn more about Moss and Stone Gardens – Where Moss Rocks!, please visit our website.  Or email David Spain at info@mossandstonegardens.com.

Unless otherwise noted, all photos are credited to Ken Gergle.

Dividing and Fragmenting Mosses

The best way to propagate moss is by taking a larger piece and dividing it into smaller pieces, then transplanting them apart from one another and encouraging them to grow together. Once moss has covered a surface it will begin adding new growth in the form of thickness, essentially growing on top of itself. While this mature thick growth is ultimately the goal and offers the best weed suppression, it does not maximize their spreading. If you are trying to increase coverage then dividing will speed the process.

To ensure the highest level of survival, larger divisions offer stability and control. These divisions could be as small as the center of your palm. Even smaller divisions are called fragments and offer the greatest expansion but the loose pieces are more difficult to confine. The size of the fragments are best if kept larger than 1/4 inch, the smaller the fragments the longer it will take to establish and fill in. Pinching and pulling to tease apart sections is preferable to using scissors or other instruments. One square foot of moss can be effectively spread to cover up to 20 square feet. Mind you this degree of fragmentation is extreme and may take several years to fill in.

The tearing and shredding to divide or fragment signals the moss to begin new growth. The first order of business for the divisions or fragments is to re-anchor themselves to the substrate. Until new rhizoids have formed, leafy growth will not resume. In order for a rhizoid to develop, the fragment or stem of the moss must be in contact with something. Rhizoids do not reach out to attach themselves by first growing into thin air and then happen upon a surface to connect with. Instead, they form on the stem when in contact with something.

Pleurocarpous mosses will respond to fragmentation techniques much faster than acrocarpous mosses will. By nature of their growth habit and response to moisture, pleurocarps will respond with new growth within 3 months if moisture is sufficient. Their stems will continually branch and lengthen making them superior for carpeting.

Any part of a pleuro is viable for regeneration. The larger the fragment the more quickly it will recover. Very small fragments (less than 1/4 inch) are likely to revert to a younger state of maturity called protonema. This fragile state is where the moss acts like an alga, and grows more like a film on the surface. Protonemal mosses are more likely to perish if they become dry and may take many weeks before developing into a mature gametophyte (fully developed moss with leaves).

Acrocarpous mosses that have been fragmented may need 6 months or more to anchor themselves and another 12 months to multiply. Since acrocarps spread by the growth of new individual upright stems, the pace of their spreading is slower. Since most acrocarpous mosses require periodic dry periods, they cannot stay in a growth mode everyday like pleurocarps.

The growing tips or outer layers of Acrocarps are more readily regenerated than the older lower parts of the stem. When fragmenting acro’s, be sure to crumble or cut the growing tips with scissors. Simply separating the stems will leave them less able to orient themselves upright and create new rhizoids.

Fragmentation should be done when the moss is dry. In their desiccated state, they have prepared themselves for possible damage, storing a small amount of protein that can be used to repair any cellular damage once moisture returns.

Spread the fragments onto a prepared and lightly scratched soil, water enough to wet the top inch of soil and then press them firmly, re-compacting the soils surface. This will provide good contact with as much surface area of the fragments and promote rhizoid formation. Compacting also acts to trap the fragments between soil particles keeping them from blowing away. Water the fragments 1 to 4 times a day depending on the conditions and occasionally walk on them to keep their contact with the soil.

Divisions can be held in place by netting, toothpicks or greening pins. Toothpicks can be inserted at opposite angles to work in unison with one another. Acrocarps are better held in place with netting. Securing moss divisions in place is useful for areas with water run-off or gusty winds. Securing also prevents unnecessary disturbance which can disrupt rhizome development.

David Spain a.k.a. Moss Rock

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Follow Moss and Stone Gardens – Where Moss Rocks! on Twitter @Moss_Rocks and our Facebook page Moss and Stone Gardens – Where Moss Rocks!

To learn more about Moss and Stone Gardens – Where Moss Rocks!, please visit our website.  Or email David Spain at info@mossandstonegardens.com.

Unless otherwise noted, all photos are credited to Ken Gergle.

Southern Living – My mossy roots

    This month we are celebrating being featured in a little magazine you may have heard of…Southern Living!  Be sure and check out “Roll Out the Green Carpet” (page 68 if you must know).   This is especially gratifying as this article and this garden are important milestones in my moss adventure.   Take a peek behind the scenes with me…

In May of 2008, one of our favorite garden creations was invited to participate in the Raleigh Little Theatre Garden tour. It was at the home of Richard and Barbara Urquhart, and it was then that my now close friend Helen Yoest visited their garden for the first time. Helen wrote a post about the garden for her blog, Gardening With Confidence and an edited version was published in September 2008 issue of Metro Magazine.

A few months later Helen brought Steve Bender, aka The Grumpy Gardener and Senior garden writer for Southern Living Magazine, for a quick look around the garden while he was in town.

Shortly after that, Steve contacted me with interest in doing a feature article on the moss garden and the work we had done there. Sadly, Mr. Urquhart, a great friend, mentor and my father-in-law had passed away peacefully on June 8th 2008, resting in his chair overlooking his beautiful garden. Even though I couldn’t share the excitement with him in person, there was no doubt in my mind that this great man was smiling along with me from his new home in the Garden of Eden.

By that time I had had a 10 year love affair with this little plant’s charm and tenacity.  Could others be as taken with it as well? To have someone like Helen and Steve validate this belief in moss becoming mainstream was a great motivator, but there was much to be done before my dreams could be realized. The first task at hand was to prepare the Urquhart’s garden for a top-tier magazine photo-shoot. With the family’s blessing we began right away, the shoot was a mere 10 months away and mosses don’t move that fast.All through the winter and spring we worked to complete the unfinished visions Mr. Uquhart and I had shared for the garden.

As July of 2009 approached, Moss and Stone Gardens was on-site full time, tending every tiny detail and fighting the heat and dryness of that year. It was no easy task to make a garden whose blooming plants peak in early May, look just as spectacular 2 months later. Luckily mosses with their year-round glory came to the rescue!

The day finally came, July 14th of 2009 and Steve, Helen and photographer extraordinaire Ralph Anderson arrived at the garden. Friends and family had gathered at the grand home to celebrate the gardens preparedness and its’ honored guests. Ham biscuits, deviled eggs, tomato pie and iced tea helped to keep the crew working all through the heat of the day, preparing for the many different aspects and angles of the planned photos. We took advantage of anything to make the best of the afternoon while we waited on what Ralph called “the Soft Light”. He explained that just as the sun is rising or  setting, there is a period of time when the lighting becomes magical and it allows the camera to see what we do in person. This moment in time allows the photographer to capture the spiritual connection with the surroundings.

God was accommodating, no doubt with a nudge from Mr. Urquhart and the soft light came. We raced from place to place to capture the “gloaming” of the garden as Mr. U used to call it, and it was good. When the light proved too dim and much had been captured, Ralph’s excitement to capture one more spectacular shot hadn’t diminished, nor had mine. I shouted to Ralph, “I know one more angle we haven’t done yet,” and we grabbed the gear rushing to the backyard. Sure enough, the sun was providing a last few minutes of opportunity, and with the cameras exposure wide open, turning the waters surface to a glossy finish, it was done. The shoot over and crew exhausted, we shared a toast, to Mr. Urquhart and everyone that had worked so hard to bring this dream into a reality.

I will never be able to thank Helen, Steve, Ralph and all those involved enough, most of all my mentor that I miss dearly …here’s to you Mr. Urquhart.

p.s. Interestingly enough, the photo that made it into the article was that very last shot we took as the light faded.

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Follow Moss and Stone Gardens – Where Moss Rocks! on Twitter @Moss_Rocks and our Facebook page Moss and Stone Gardens – Where Moss Rocks!

To learn more about Moss and Stone Gardens – Where Moss Rocks!, please visit our website.  Or email David Spain at info@mossandstonegardens.com.

Unless otherwise noted, all photos are credited to Ken Gergle.