Tag Archives: collecting moss

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.

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.

 

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.

How to collect moss

Mosses can be collected by scooping, scraping, or raking. The technique for collection depends on the type of moss–acrocarp or pleurocarp

ACROCARPS

Acrocarps are best collected by scooping after a rainfall. First, clean any loose debris and weed the moss as much as possible before collecting. Once the moss is disturbed and removed from it’s original location, it’s more difficult to remove debris and vascular plants. Slide a mason’s trowel, BBQ spatula, or any flat-bladed hand tool underneath a moss colony to collect a thin layer of soil along with a patch of moss, preserving the rhizomes and the integrity of the colony.

Work in sections about the size of the palm of your hand or as large as you can transport without damage. These moss colonies can then be re-located intact or divided and nestled back into the soil to re-establish in a new location.

Frequent watering will speed up the re-establishment process. For acrocarps, begin with a greater frequency of watering then decreasing over time:

  • Months 1 and 2–water daily for up to two months to promote growth.
  • Month 3–water every three days for one month.
  • Month 4–water once a week for one month.
  • Month 5–water twice a month then until the area is fully covered in moss.
  • After that, water only when rain has been absent for three weeks or more.

PLEUROCARPS

Pleurocarps can be collected by scooping, scraping, or raking.

To scoop, collect pleurocarps like you would acrocarps, cutting the soil just under the colony and transplanting the colony whole (with soil) to a new location.

To scrape or pull the mosses from the soil, cut at the top of the soil level or work the moss away from the soil with your hands. A lateral pushing and pulling motion will loosen or break the rhizomes and allow the mosses to be removed from the soil.  This technique is similar to giving someone a back massage where the palms of your hands are flat on top of the moss and you are pressing down.  Slowly push and pull, keeping the contact between your hands and the moss to loosen and break the rhizomes that are holding the moss in place. With your fingertips, work your way around the area until it is loose, tearing an edge to allow you to gently peel it up. Scraping should also be done when the moss is wet.

This will also allow you to collect the moss without any soil, lessening the weight for transport, thus increasing your chances of keeping the colony section whole. The moss section can then be transplanted to the new substrate for establishment. Collecting mosses in this fashion is also helpful when moving them from a fallen tree and then onto soil or other substrate when you intend to fragment into smaller pieces.

Raking the mosses can also be used to remove moss from areas where they are mixed with weeds and grasses. By raking the mosses, you can leave the root-anchored plants behind and collect the mosses in fragments. This technique is best done when the moss is dry. It may also be helpful to agitate the moss with your finger tips until the fragments are free.  

Spread the moss fragments into a prepared area and water frequently to establish new rhizome anchors. Pleurocarpous mosses can be watered daily to encourage establishment and spreading. It is not necessary to reduce the frequency as you would with acrocarps.

 

 

Be sure to check in next week as we talk about preparing a site for moss establishment.

David Spain, a.k.a Moss Rock

 

 

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

Edited by: Helen Yoest

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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 info@mossandstonegardens.com.

Photo credited: David Spain.

 

Moss Rocks! – Collecting moss

Failing mosses being colonized by appropriate species.

Dear David Spain,

My husband and I have collected moss from around the neighborhood and have transplanted it into an area where we are creating a moss garden. For a while it seemed as all the moss was doing well and was green, but now some of the moss has turned brown and looks dead while other areas look great and are spreading. What are we doing wrong? Please help as we have spent a lot of time collecting and transplanting and do not want to loose what we have.

Thanks for your help,
Cindy

Dear Cindy,

When you collect different species of moss and then plant them together, their needs aren’t always the same. You may think of moss as just moss, but of course there are many species and it’s often difficult to discern differences without using a loupe or consulting a bryologist. I suggest that you learn the basics of identification by knowing your acrocarp from your pleurocarp and keep these two separated.

Most acrocarps do not like constant moisture while most pleurocarps do. My advice for your situation is to continue a regular watering schedule and allow the mosses that are flourishing to take over the ones that are not. Dead or dying mosses of one species can make a welcoming surface for other mosses to invade or spores to germinate on. You can speed up the process by fragmenting some of the flourishing mosses directly on top of the ones that are failing.

I have seen large areas transplanted with a moss that was not appropriate for the conditions and all of it die. The area continued to be watered as if the moss was still alive and after a couple of months the spores of another species germinated on top of the decaying moss which created a perfect nursery for the right species to develop.

This bed of dead moss (photo above) acted as a moisture retentive substrate, erosion control, and weed preventer. It allowed for spores of other mosses to have places to land and take hold without blowing away. Developing a moss area by transplanting will eventually lead to some of the species performing better than others and the faster growing species will subsequently dominate the area.

You can of course let mother nature decide what species to introduce by clearing the area down to bare earth and then begin watering just as though there was moss already present. By creating the conditions first, spores that are present will germinate and grow, this way the appropriate species will be encouraged. If you build it, they will come!  Happy mossgardening!

David Spain a.k.a. Moss Rock

 

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 info@mossandstonegardens.com.

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