Author Archives: David Spain

Mooning over Mosses

Moss step stones

“We gave David only a general idea of what we wanted. His imagination, sense of design, and talent for execution took it way beyond anything we could have dreamed of. It has an originality and sense of whimsy that make the garden always a pleasure to gaze upon. The curves of the stone wall and the fern beds, the placement of the Japanese maple trees and the crepe myrtle, and the mystical green surface of the moss give us an endlessly varying scene to enjoy. And David’s obvious love of moss and his willingness to share his vast knowledge of this ancient vegetation makes us feel as if we’re in touch with something timeless.”          ~ Barbara & David

Sometimes the stars align just right and a client’s existing property features, our collective visions for improvement and a sky’s-the-limit budget all fall into a state of moss-induced bliss. Sometimes, but not always. That’s where a new kind of alignment and yes, the fun, begins.

Often we’re called in because, in fact, the client’s existing property features are a major challenge and a testament to failed endeavors (they’ve spent a whole lot of money on planting, fertilizing, weeding and fretting over failed grass areas etc.) or, they really don’t have any idea of what to do with that barren shady section of their yard. Sometimes we’re met with someone brimming with a whole lot of ideas but not much budget. Did I say this is where the fun begins? Yes and it really is as we collaborate together to find that perfect balance of terrain, resources and dreams. The results? As it turns out we can whip some of those wayward stars right back into alignment, thank you very much. Hello segue!

We have lots of “star stories” borne of one or more of these challenges. Here’s a short one for you…

Recently, a client gave us open season on the creative vision and a generous budget so wow what could go wrong? Oops, the tree guys, that’s what. Between our first and second site visits the tree team showed up and the nice shady glade I first saw was now not so very shady.  (Oh, that lovely cherry tree. I still mourn your loss.)  Solution? A one hundred gallon (and spectacular) crepe myrtle (Lagerstroemia ‘Nachez’) supplied instant shade. Project back on course but at an unexpected adjustment to the budget.

Fortunately our client was committed to the original mosssome vision and agreed to the additional cost necessitated by the oops factor!

Moss Timbers

While we had lots of creative license, it turned out Barbara, the home owner, deeply loved some beautiful but not so stable timbers retaining soil on both sides of the driveway.  In fact those rotting, yet visually pleasing, timbers were the basis of her whole inspiration for calling us. Why did she love them so? Take a look and it will be obvious to you. They were covered in velvety layers of Dicranum mosses. What’s not to love?

Barbara is a renowned photographer and artist with a particular passion for color. As it turns out, green is her favorite. The mosses that populated her rotting timbers inspired her but hey, the timbers were no longer doing their job which was to act as a retaining wall. They had beauty but, sorry Barbara, they simply had to go. Could they go and the mosses stay, she asked?

Before tyrolerOur vision evolved from there to incorporate the beauty of the mosses with a more stable solution for the retaining wall. Yes, she could have both! We started with the possibilities of rebuilding the timber retaining walls, setting them further back to allow for a wider driveway and preserving any of the existing moss growth into the new landscape. It soon became apparent that Barbara was interested in a panoramic surround of verdant green hues to inspire her creativity as she worked from inside her large-windowed home. Our kind of office! She also was interested in low maintenance. The stars are in their heavens and all is right with the world.

After we discovered that Barbara and her husband David were not gardeners, and challenged by the care of their four houseplants, we knew that moss and stone would be the ideal landscape components for them. We used large boulders around the property to diversify and  bring strong visual impact to the woodland lot. Boulder moss pathMoss, maples and stone would make this landscape shine bright.

Boulders were placed either side of the driveway entry, incorporated into the retaining wall and one very large boulder placed in the middle of the front yard which had been left natural. Lichen BoulderThe massive stones weighed a total of eight tons which brought the installation into scale with the rest of the yard. We transitioned one of the timber retaining walls into a stone wall as it rounded toward the house. Next, planting beds were created at the base of the stone wall and  the sloping ground was leveled for the stepping stone pathway. We transplanted Thuidium delecatulum moss as the ground cover and reused Barbara’s existing mosses into a little pocket garden on the opposite side of the driveway. Three specimen Japanese maples (Acer Palmatum ‘Bloodgood’, Acer Palmatum ‘Viride’ and an upright Acer palmatum dissectum ‘Seiryu’) were incorporated as well as some simple under plantings, lighting and irrigation.

Today, Barbara and David’s garden is a welcoming oasis of calm with its luxurious carpet of moss and eye-catching stone additions. Ahh, heaven on earth.

David Spain a.k.a. Moss Rock

Before moss

After moss

Stone path entry

 

 

 

Moss entry

moss timber gravel

Moss concept

 

 

 

*remember to click on the images to enlarge and enjoy them at higher resolution 

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

Plants With Benefits

ST LYNN'S PRESS Plants With Benefits cover Helen Yoest and I have been good friends for a long time now, and we like to share in each other’s successes. So with this, I present to you Helen’s latest book Plants With Benefits: An Uninhibited Guide to the Aphrodisiac Herbs, Fruits, Flowers, & Veggies in Your Garden (2014, St. Lynn’s Press). You’re going to love this book.

I had two honors in contributing to Helen’s book. The first was helping shoot and style many of the photos. The second was writing another blurb for her new book; I knew my way around the concept when I wrote a blurb for the first book Gardening With Confidence –50 Ways to add style for personal creativity (2012 GWC Press).

Here is what I said about Plants With Benefits:

Peel back the covers of Plants with Benefits and treat ourself to beguiling photos and tales of flirtations produce, hot herbs and saucy spices that will tickle your senses and delight your eye. Helen’s playful look at the secret lives of her subjects makes for a book that will leave you wanting more. Oh la la?”

Her accolades have been many starting with a feature in the New York Times.

Here’s how the story opens:

Helen Yoest didn’t set out, as she said recently, to write a horticultural Kama Sutra. It was sort of an accident. Ms. Yoest, a garden writer, was researching an article on avocados when she learned that the fruit was considered an aphrodisiac. What makes it so, she wondered: The nutrients? The shape? Bingo. Turns out their reputation dates to the Aztecs, who marveled at how avocados grew in pairs, and named the plant “the testicle tree.” Click to read more.

Plants With Benefits can be purchased through Amazon.com or an autographed copy through her website, Gardening With Confidence®.

Let me know what you think, I’d like to continue sharing in Helen’s success and joy she has had with this new book. I hope we see more from Helen.

David Spain
Moss Rocks

Growing a Greener World

In June of 2012 Moss and Stone Gardens became the focus of a fantastic television series, Growing a Greener World. Hosted by Joe Lampl’ and broadcast nationally on PBS stations, GGWTV has become known for it’s appealling coverage of a broad range of interesting and topical green subjects. Beautifully filmed in high definition, it is a treat for the eyes as well as the soul. We were contacted by GGWTV’s co-executive producer and resident canning expert, Theresa Loe, expressing interest in learning more about mosses and the possibility of their inclusion for an upcoming show. After a few communications it was apparent that mosses and our work with them would have enough interest to become a full episode. Naturally we were thrilled with the aspect of another chance to share our message of mossy goodness with a national audience!

We awaited the arrival of Joe Lampl’ and the GGWTV team at our Moss Farm nursery with great anticipation. The visually stunning camera work that has become the trademark of GGWTV series was accomplished for our episode by the work of a very talented team of brothers, Carl Pennington and David Pennington. Together, Joe, Carl and David have traveled extensively to cover so many interesting topics and locations that to sit and talk with them is an adventure all it’s own. The few days that we spent together was an unforgettable experience and eye opening as to the demands of producing a high quality television series. I should mention that GGWTV is also comprised of other very talented personalities and team members which we didn’t have the opportunity to work with in person, such as the uber charming celebrity chef Nathan Lyon.  We did get to know some of the other great folks such as the previously mentioned Co-executive producer and chicken aficionado Theresa Loe as well as the existentially provocative Social media director Christa Hanson, both of which we adore and appreciate tremendously.

We began with a strategy meeting at sunrise – days always begin at sunrise when working with a television crew – and mapped out locations to film the script. We began filming rather quickly and wouldn’t you know it, I’m first up to bat with my close-up shots. Although not my first time on camera, I have to admit it was quite a challenge to condense my words within the framework of the script. Those of you who know me understand that I am not short-winded about my passion for moss! It was also hot as hades and impossible for me to not perspire. We were constantly running fans and wiping my face in between takes. I have to say that the patience of Joe, Carl and David in their determination to get the shot was phenomenal. Dealing with a sweaty, fumbling subject was only part of the ordeal as much of the challenge was constantly changing lighting and background noises.

After meticulous preparations we would be at the finish line of a segment only to have it interrupted by an amazing and seemingly determined variety of audio interlopers;  a plane overhead or a chainsaw or a car horn or a leaf blower or a lawn mower or a -I kid you not- crew of city workers with a bulldozer to clear a right-of-way at the bottom of our property!  Luckily for us they were PBS supporters and agreed to begin their clearing at the other end of the right-of-way.

Interesting to see, was just how seamlessly Joe could move from off-camera to on-camera. I suppose that after so many years of hosting television programs Joe has developed that skill but it is also apparent, watching him work, that  he is a natural talent. The really kind and enthusiastic person you see on the screen is what Joe is like in real life, but for that to be felt and seen by viewers, he also taps into his ease with the camera and keen focus on the subject matter. So what may look casual when edited and shown over a half hour program was really a grueling sun-up to sun-down schedule of scene set-up and shoots over a sweltering three and a half days.  Not once did I see Joe with even a bead of perspiration! That twit! Oh, did I type that out loud?!

Ken and I were fascinated by Carl and David’s expertise with the visual and audio recording of the events.  Obviously they are pros and it shows. Both Ken and I relate very well to the challenges of documenting our work with mosses but these guys were also capturing sound. Their commitment to high quality audio was very rigorous to accomplish and constituted most of the demands of the time needed for the shoot. We became attuned to the ambient sounds during filming but mostly kept an eye on David as he listened through his headphones. By the last day of shooting I could sense an approaching sound violation by the slight cocking of David’s head as the microphone picked up the earliest vibrations detectable to his trained ear.

Needless to say, all the work to make this episode happen was worth it and, thanks to Joe and his crew, we are one step closer to giving mosses their due and taking them off the list of weeds to spray with herbicides. With topics like this being examined on quality programs we can all learn how to work towards growing a greener world.

Visit Growing a Greener World’s website to see the Moss Gardens episode #319 from season 3 or look up your local listings and find when it airs on your local PBS station. While your there, be sure to check out all the other amazing episodes and connect with the GGWTV team and joe gardeners’ from around the world through their Facebook page.

David Spain a.k.a. Moss Rock

*remember to click on the images to enlarge and enjoy them at higher resolution 

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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.

Love A Fair

One of my favorite movies is Love Affair from 1939 starring Irene Dunne and Charles Boyer. It was remade as An Affair To Remember in 1957 with Deborah Kerr and Cary Grant and again as Love Affair in 1994 with Annette Bening and Warren Beatty. There is also the well known movie Sleepless In Seattle which borrowed heavily from this story’s plot line. Just like a really good story, some things can be revisited over and over again even though the similarities are obvious the freshness comes from the changing characters and contemporary elements.

This year Moss and Stone Gardens was invited to create an exhibition at the NC State Fair. Erv Evans, affectionately known as The Plant Guy for his encyclopedic knowledge of plants and their botanical names, is in charge of the Flower and Garden Show at the fair and when he made his enthusiasm known for our unique gardening style we could not resist.

The affair began with a visit to the garden grounds and a tour with Erv to see what locations were available. After consideration, Ken and I chose a corner booth anchored by a large White Oak. Little did we realize that this year was one of those off-the-chart acorn events that you seem to forget about until they occur again. By the time we broke ground 2 weeks before the Fair began, acorns were falling from the great oak at an astonishing rate and speed. Thousands fell into our booth and gave little if any warning before striking, if unlucky you became the stricken, if lucky you got to laugh at your partner getting a right painful lump on his noggin’.

With some thought, it was decided to bring a little serenity to the energetic and colorful sea of blooms that enthralls the almost 1 million visitors that return each year. Hopefully, our exhibition would be seen as one of those contemporary elements that are welcomed in a recurring great storyline. We gave the installation the name The Serenity Garden and chose to use as many traditional Japanese style elements as we could tastefully squeeze into our 20′ x 15′ plot. The challenge was met by creating a 4 foot mound at the rear corner which allowed for some forced perspective. The temple on top of the hill and adjacent elements were kept to scale as though the distance from the viewer was greater than it actually was. The stream that originated from behind the temple gained some added mystique with a fogging machine and the washed pebbles in the stream graded from 1/4″ all the way to 5″ as it approached the Tsukubai fountain. At the base of the hill we nestled a dry water feature using screened gravel accented by bamboo and behind the fountain we added a Buddha statue to contemplate the peaceful setting.

As much fun as we had creating the Serenity Garden it paled in comparison to the joy we received by watching the flow of visitors stop and muse. For a moment, they stopped mouthing their cotton-candy or scanning ahead to see if the next attraction was more interesting, they pointed for others to not miss what caught their eye, took photographs, knelt down to caress the moss and most importantly came away with a new appreciation for one of the oldest stories ever told again and again, moss.

David Spain a.k.a. Moss Rock

*remember to click on the images to enlarge and enjoy them at higher resolution 

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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.

A Rock’n Party!

This past weekend Moss and Stone Gardens had the honor to assist Helen Yoest with the hosting of the VIP party for the J. C. Raulston Arboretum, which was a wrap-up event for the 10th anniversary celebration of the Ruby C. McSwain education center. After two days of ceremony and appreciation, Saturday night was all about the folks that make the arboretum vital today. Helen as usual was on task for this J.C. jubilee and she wasn’t about to just throw some “come over to my house and knosh on some celery and wine coolers” kind of gathering. No, she was set that the event would be as memorable as the efforts of all the great staff, volunteers and contributors that make the JC Raulston Arboretum the world class horticultural center that it is.

Helen’s Haven is well designed for large gatherings and it was decided that we would add a bamboo and burlap structure centered on the long rectangular lawn to create some atmosphere. Ken and I used two 30 foot bamboo poles to suspend large round paper lanterns, one orange and one white. They were to become symbols for the setting sun and rising moon. The moon was placed high overhead while the sun was hung low over the center of the garden. Paper lanterns were also used for lighting the tables since the party would stretch into the evening hours. To that we added Christmas lights around the structure and throughout the garden at key places, careful to not use too much. The Garden house, knick-named The Love Shack, was repurposed for a beverage station and as the point on the exclamation mark! Tiki torches were dotted about and the music backdrop selected.

Moss, of course, was the centerpiece at the tables and Moss Rocks! were placed to accent the simple and beautiful settings. Patricia, my wife, prepared abundant appetizers and the cornbread muffins that accompanied Helen’s famous white chicken chili. Cupcakes followed the main course, baked by Beth Jimenez and paired with butter pecan ice cream.

The guests arrived and settled in quickly to the inviting venue.  Food and drinks were passed around and everyone was soon partying with confidence. Honestly, I can’t remember a party that sported all the right ingredients so well.  As the sun set and the arbor lights danced into the night a glow seemed to surround the happy gathering.  We were all so enjoying the evening and the company there was no sign of anyone looking for an early exit. The food, fun and ambience combined to satisfy all of our desires for an evening to be remembered.

The J. C. Raulston Arboretum, if you haven’t been before, I highly recommend to visit. It is truly a treasure for North Carolina and inspiration for us all. As for the folks that volunteer and work there, you won’t find a better crowd to spend a evening with.

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.

 

High Hopes

 

I spend a fair amount of time observing the small and tiny features in the landscape. I suppose that comes with the territory of being a moss gardener. To fully study mosses it is necessary to see them up close, to think in micro terms and to alter your perspective in general. Sometimes this micro-focus becomes so engrained that larger occurrences are missed. The other day I noticed a 30 foot line in the moss, it appeared as though a garden hose had been left on top of the moss for a week or two and had left a very noticeable impression. Knowing this was likely, I didn’t give it a second thought. A few weeks later I thought again about the still evident impression and why it looked the same, with no signs of the moss regenerating. I chalked it up to a normal slow down in moss growth during the summer season. Then, last week it struck me again that the line was not changing at all and the period of time was too great to not have seen repairs by now.

I decided it was something else happening and my mind opened up to consider other possibilities besides a water hose. The first thing that didn’t correlate with the water hose theory was that one end of the line was directly in line with the root flair of a giant White Oak. A water hose would not be easily laid to rest on this quickly vertical part of the tree trunk.  It would surely have been to either side of the flair and not perfectly aligned. I began to think about the giant Oak and the many squirrels that climb it and all the trees in the garden but knew it was impossible for the erratic squirrels to have made a consistent path to the tree. As I went through all the known creatures great and small that could have made this line in the moss nothing seemed to make any sense.

I sat down to ponder this phenomenon and stared blankly at the little trail through the miniature jungle. Then I noticed a carpenter ant.  You know, the large black ants that are often seen in trees. It was headed towards me and in the direction of the old Oak and I thought that was interesting but impossible as the answer to my query. I followed the ant along the miniature trail which it never deviated from and right up the root flair and into the tree. Still in disbelief that this could be the correlation, I watched longer.

One after another, the carpenter ants followed the trail in both directions and soon I was convinced. It may be that the ant can’t move a rubber tree plant but apparently it can move thousands of moss plants in order to make its’ daily travels easier. I looked closely and realized that by removing the moss in their path it saved the ants immeasurable distance of travel up and over all the irregular stems of the mosses. Moss looks to us almost smooth and velvety, but if you’re the size of an ant it is more like forging a trail through an understory thicket – think Amazon jungle!

By my calculations, this 30 foot trail for the ants was equivalent to a human size trail over seven football fields long! Even more impressive was the fact that the trail wasn’t just worn down over time but actually cut through. The stems of the moss were noticeably trimmed back and the leafy growth removed.

This is another example of the rich biodiversity waiting to be discovered  in the world of  moss gardens.  We’re not the only ones working hard out there!  While we are working to create our gardens other creatures are teaching us how to coexist with it.

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.

 

A day at the Beach

This past week I took a few days from my normal shady seclusion and spent some time in the sun at Holden beach. Located on the southeastern shoreline of North Carolina, Holden is a small island of about 3.4 square miles and also a turtle breeding sanctuary. A wonderful resort town for lazy vacations and strolling down the beach, it is known as “The Family Beach”. Aside from its family friendly shoreline, Holden is also dune friendly. Protecting the shoreline from erosion, the dunes are anchored by several species of plants adapted to this harsh environment.

Many of these plants are native to the barrier islands of North Carolina and some are introduced. It isn’t a surprise to know that Sea Oates (Uniola paniculata) are routinely planted and protected as a line of defense on the primary dunes that run parallel to the shoreline. Several other species however constitute the secondary dunes and create the unique and fragile eco systems.

Spanish Daggers (Yucca gloriosa), Saltmeadow Cordgrass (Spartina patens), Dune Marsh-elder (Iva imbricata), Largeleaf Pennyworth (Hydrocotyle bonariensis), American Beachgrass (Ammophila breviligulata) and the charming Fire wheel (Gaillardia aristata) all look the part of this desert-like scape. None of these species seem out of place or unexpected to the vacationing families, but a closer look might show a surprising pioneer plant that few would guess belonged. Yep, moss.

If you follow this blog you probably know that mosses inhabit all seven continents and that they grow in extreme environments from the Sahara desert to the Antarctic. Their ability to inhabit the widest variety of conditions on earth, more than any other plant species, is unimaginable. But they aren’t supposed to be at the beach are they? Just as certain species have evolved to tolerate long periods of drought and scorching sun or the deep constant shade of the rain forest, some have adaptive talents for the shifting sands and salt spray of the shoreline.

Aloina aloides, sometimes called Aloe-moss is an acrocarpous species suited for coastal conditions. Even though its habit is perfect for the secondary dunes it is also equipped for duty in the city. Colonies spring up in sandy or poor soiled islands in parking lots across America. These islands in a sea of concrete aren’t much different than their home at the beach. Drying winds and salty spray from de-icing solutions welcome them into a place inhospitable to many other plants. Landscapers’ of these forgotten islands often resort to mulch and gravel to deal with these harsh conditions but mosses, as usual, can take advantage of the lack of competition. Strangely enough, humans inadvertantly  provide conditions for moss by their activity of clearing, building and maintaining of cityscapes. Disturbed soils are fresh territory for colonization, mosses can stabilize these areas and pave the way for other plants to take hold, as they do in the shifting dune sands.

So this fair skinned shade gardener enjoyed a little too much sun as he found himself taking a busman’s holiday at the shore with Aloe-moss at his feet.  Too bad it wasn’t that kind of Aloe!

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.

 

When is the best time to plant moss?

Mosses are evergreen plants. They will grow year round as long as moisture and sunlight are available at the same time. Photosynthesis is possible even below 32 degrees Fahrenheit. Mosses do not have a seasonal growth habit,  instead their dormancy comes anytime they are dry. They return to active growth as soon as moisture fills their tissue.

Mosses can be successfully transplanted anytime of the year. The requirements for their survival are the same no matter the zone or season. The difference in care however will vary depending on what Mother Nature is doing. In general the differences in the time of year come down to moisture. If temperatures are mild then moisture retention is higher than it would be if you were experiencing 100 degree days when evaporative effects are increased. The more rainfall, the less irrigation you will have to provide.

Other seasonal considerations come from other plants. If mosses are newly transplanted in the early fall, removal of leaf litter will be challenging if the moss wasn’t pinned or netted to the substrate. Using a blower to remove leaves from the moss may disturb unanchored or weakly attached colonies. Using artificial attachment like moss pins or netting is an effective way to deal with this issue. Regular blowing before leaf litter becomes deep and heavy with water will also make removal easier. Loose netting laid down over an area and then lifted once leaves have fallen is another low impact option. Transplanting in late winter or early spring usually means rainfall and temperatures are  advantageous but annual weeds may be fighting for the same territory you have cleared for the moss. Mature and thick moss growth is naturally weed resistant but newly formed moss areas may still have exposed soils and minimal moss density. Controlling weeds are a necessary part of developing a moss garden, removal by hand is the best method and least harmful to the mosses. Pre-emergents are an effective control for annual weeds and can be used with moss gardens.

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.

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