Category Archives: Moss Companion Plants

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

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


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

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
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

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

If moss companion plants could talk…Spring

Springtime arrives to The Moss Farm in Raleigh, NC. With spring comes the delicate wildflowers along with ferns, Mayapples, and other perennials. It’s been about a year since many have seen each other. Let’s listen to hear what they have to say….

Houstonia caerulea, Bluets.
Moss – Thuidium delecatulum

Down here, HERE, see me? Yoohoo Japanese Painted Fern.  Can you find us?  Over here…we’re baaaaccccckkkkk.  Had a good rest, you?  We are ready to bloom and blow our fool blue heads off.  Who all’s here?


Athyrium niponicum ‘Pictum’, Japanese Painted Fern.
Moss – Thuidium delecatulum

Under the spores, the Japanese Painted Fern mumbles,”ラット, they’re back.  They are so annoying.  Always too happy especially for being blue….be nice…be nice…be nice…Of course I see you, Bluet; welcome back”


 Epimedium, barrenwort
Moss – Thuidium delecatulum and Hypnum cupressiforme

Ah man, I need to stretch…


Epimedium, barrenwort
Moss – Thuidium delecatulum and Hypnum cupressiforme

…That’s better…


Athyrium ‘Ghost’, Ghost Fern
Moss – Thuidium delecatulum and Plagiomnium cuspidatum

Dad  (Japanese painted fern) is here.  I wonder where mom (Lady Fern, A. filix-femina) is too?  I wonder if they’re still talking…


 Asarum canadense, Wild Ginger
Moss – Thuidium delecatulum

Feed me, feed me, feed me….


Hosta ‘Blue Mouse Ears’
Moss Thuidium delecatulum and Bryoandersonia illecebra

This is the year I’ll prove size really does matter…as in the smaller, the better…


Mertensia virginica, Virginia Bluebells
Moss – Thuidium delecatulum and  Hypnum cupressiforme

I’m not English.  I’m not Spanish.  I’m American.  I’m not English-American.  I’m not Spanish-American.  I’m American-American.  OK, give me your best shot…


Hepatica, liverwort, kidneywort, pennywort
Moss – Thuidium delecatulum

Hepatica – Hi, I’m Hepatica.

Virginia Bluebells – May I call you Liverwort?

Hepatica – No, you may not.  Please, call me Hepatica.

Virginia Bluebells – How about Kidneywort?

Hepatica – No please, call me Hepatica.

Virginia Bluebells – How about Pennywort?

Hepatica – No please. I insist. Call me Hepatica!


Pulmonaria officinalis, Lungwort
Moss – Thuidium delecatulum

Please don’t judge all worts by their spots…


Heuchera ‘Tapestry’, Coral Bells
Moss – Thuidium delecatulum and  Hypnum cupressiforme

Does this pink make my hips look big?


 Stylophorum diphyllum , Woodland Poppy
Moss – Thuidium delecatulum

Don’t I look dashing in dew? Seriously, don’t I look good in everything?  You don’t think this moss is stealing the beauty from my showing, do you?  DO YOU?


Podophyllum peltatum, May apple
Moss – Thuidium delecatulum

Push, push, a little more, push….


Podophyllum peltatum, May apple
Moss – Thuidium delecatulum and Bryoandersonia illecebra

There, there, that’s better…


Saxifraga stolonifera, Strawberry geranium
Moss –  Bryoandersonia illecebra
(also a little, tiny, Galium odoratum, sweet woodruff)

I hope stripes are in this year…



Order your Moss Rocks!  online today.  Moss is grand.  Moss is green.  Moss is good. Make the most of it; order Moss Rocks! today.

By: Helen Yoest

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

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