Tag Archives: Moss and Stone Gardens

Moss Trending: The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert

The Signature of All ThingsFinally, moss takes center stage in the theatre of Earth–again. What’s old is new again, and it’s trending like a Broadway hit!

Martha, of course, has done a lot to enlighten gardeners to the allure of mosses, and we take our part very seriously (and respectfully) to educate people on the cultivation of a moss garden wherever they may live.  Now Elizabeth Gilbert is reaching the masses beyond gardeners.

Through Alma Whittaker, the protagonist in Ms. Gilbert’s latest book, The Signature of All Things, we are made privy to the nineteenth century world of botany and specifically to the science of mosses. (Of course, we here at Moss and Stone Gardens thought Eat Pray Love should have been about moss, too. After all, moss is worthy, but we digress.)Moss and Stone Garden

Moss LikeHaven’t gotten your copy yet? Or, want to give one as a gift or a loan but cannot bear to part with your own copy? Now’s your chance to win one! Moss and Stone Gardens has teamed with Ms. Gilbert’s publisher, Penguin Group (USA), and together we are hosting a giveaway. To enter to win, all you have to do is LIKE our Facebook page and leave us a comment.   Three copies, one autographed, will be given away. We  love hearing from you. Perhaps you have a photo of your own moss garden or an inspirational one that you have discovered and would like to share too. Please do!

The Signature of All Things follows the story of Alma, a brilliant woman, born in 1800. Admittedly, we may be ever so slightly biased as to our estimation of her brilliance as we are in complete accord with her decision to make moss her life passion.gilbert

Alma spent 25 years studying moss. Of course, this would be easy to do. Once you open the curtain to the mossy adventure, time flies. David Spain, Moss and Stone Garden’s moss expert, plans to reach 25 years learning about moss, and go for another 25 years and more after that, God willing and the creek don’t rise.

primitavemossAlma Whittaker was clearly ahead of her time. Today, moss is trending, but did you know that moss was Earth’s opening act? Alma, our fictional advocate, learned the role that mosses play on Earth and we at Moss and Stone Gardens are doing our part to keep them in the spotlight and hoping (and clapping) for repeated encores in gardens around the world.

Don’t forget to LIKE our Facebook page to enter a chance to win. Please share with your friends.

By: Moss and Stone Gardens

Post Script: For those curious to know, we asked Ms. Gilbert if she grows moss in her garden at home. Her answer? A resounding YES!

 

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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.

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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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.

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.

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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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.

 

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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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.

Transplanting Polytrichum and Atrichum mosses

Hi David,

I recently discovered your site and have been grateful for all the information. I’ve been having some trouble growing moss in my garden and was hoping you might have some advice.

A month ago I discovered a large patch of an upright-growing moss (fairly sure it’s haircap moss) in a neglected corner of my garden. I cut it into several largish sections and transplanted beneath the umbrella of a weeping cherry tree, where I’ve had trouble growing much of anything except for hosta. I raked the bed, leveled the surface and have been watering fairly regularly, however the moss doesn’t appear to be thriving; it’s wilting around the edges and appears, not brown, but just generally unhealthy.

Although I trim the weeping cherry branches several feet above the ground, the area is in heavy shade and gets virtually no direct sunlight. Can haircap moss grow in such extreme shade or should I transplant (again) to a more lightly shaded area? Any other suggestions?

Thanks so much in advance for any tips and for providing such a clearinghouse of moss-related information.

All best,
Bennett

Hello Bennett, I am glad you have found our posts helpful. It isn’t unusual for acrocarps to suffer at the edges of a harvested colony. The colony itself provides protection from drying by being tightly packed together, when you cut the patch and transplant it, the edges are more expose than before and will dry out faster causing the leaves around the edges to close (appress). Making sure the edges of the colony are tucked into the soil and level with the soil around it will help, some edge damage may occur but eventually will heal.

When collecting acrocarps like Polytrichum or Atrichum, often called hair-cap or star-cap moss, it is necessary to scoop soil along with the moss colony, to prevent damage and to prevent them from falling apart. The soil ball should be accommodated with an equal depression when placed into it’s new location. Acrocarps are slow to grow, so be patient and don’t compensate by trying to add more water and perk up the edges, just follow an appropriate acrocarp watering schedule and let happen what will happen. The conditions under the weeping cherry should be just fine for the haircap moss.

Best wishes,

David Spain aka 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.

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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.

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

Moss Man speaks–lawn bad, moss good–moss rocks

The most common question I receive about moss gardening is from people who have decided to give up on their grass lawn in shady areas where naturally occurring mosses have crept in. They ask, “How do I eliminate the remaining grass?”

After attempting to grow a lawn in shade, only to fail in producing a satisfying amount of coverage to fulfill the ideal, frustration leads to an alternative–moss. Converting a grass lawn to moss where traditional attempts of growing turf were used; annual seeding, adding lime, selective herbicides, and watering are one of the most difficult scenarios to work with.

The mosses move in forming verdant green islands and showcasing their evergreen appeal. The homeowner begins to realize Mother Nature may be revealing a better plant for this location. At this point, the homeowner is typically pleased. Even if they can’t grow the grass they hoped for, the fascination that moss wants to grow offers them salvation.

Soon the moss is anointed and all the efforts to coax the grass is removed from the homeowners list of chores. The moss however proves stubborn and seems unwilling to hold up to the occupation of its newly bequeathed territory.

Then the question comes, “How do I remove the existing grass and get the moss to take over?” My standard answer underwhelms as I explain that it’s best to remove the grass by hand and water regularly. This is then followed by a plea, “Isn’t there some kind of chemical that I can apply?”

Many of us have become accustomed to gardening and cultivating our landscapes with the help of sprays and chemical controls. It’s a hard habit to break, potions line up like soldiers at the local stores to do the job once held by our sweaty hands. We want and expect to have an easy remedy in the form of a spray to rid dandelions, crabgrass, nut sedge, broad leaf weeds, and even moss (ouch). Pulling grasses and digging with a weeding tool seems like an impossible task for large areas, but tackled systematically it is manageable, and the least disturbing method that capitalizes on any gains the mosses have made.

Here are a few suggestions to create a moss lawn and to deal with a grass to moss conversion.

1.   Where there is nothing–a clean slate

If you have an area where there is no vegetation, you are beginning with a clean slate. This is usually due to leaves and debris that have been allowed to cover the ground and prevent any plants from accessing the soil. The leaf litter can be removed and the area prepared soils for mosses.

You can also create a clean slate by applying a thick layer of leaf litter and allowing it to do the work of clearing any vegetation for you over several months. For a quicker approach, vegetation can be removed manually using a flat shovel.

Beginning with a clean slate is often the best way to promote a self-sustaining and weed resistant moss lawn.

After the area is prepared for moss,  locate and transplant from your surrounding area placing patches of colonies directly on the prepared soil. Fragmenting the colonies will increase the coverage but also the time needed for establishment. After installation be sure to water deeply and step on the mosses to ensure direct contact between the mosses and the soil.

Begin a structured watering regiment  and keep the area debris free. A pre-emergent such as Preen Vegetable Garden Weed Preventer can be used to prohibit weeds from geminating.

Alternatively you can follow these steps but not introduce mosses and allow airborne spores to develop into a selection of mosses that suit the conditions. In about 3 months you will begin to see what looks like a green coloring on the surface of the compacted soil. This is the early stage of moss growth and it will develop into a moss lawn in 12 to 24 months.

2.  Where there are equal amounts of weeds and moss–join Team Moss

Join team moss and say goodbye to team grass. Every advantage given your new team will help turn the tide from grass (and weeds) to moss.

Capitalize on established patches of moss, encouraging their domination by removing competition (grass, weeds and debris) and using appropriate  watering techniquesCarefully hand pull grasses and weeds, ensuring to get the roots.

If your weeds overwhelmingly outnumber the moss, place leaf litter or black plastic over the area. This will block sunlight and starve the vascular grasses and weeds. The mosses will tolerate this for a longer period of time than the grass and weeds, thus killing the unwanted growth while maintaining most of the moss.  Check the progress every couple of weeks until the vascular plants have died.

3.  Temporarily remove and store the moss–divide and conquer

Create a clean slate by temporarily removing the mosses. Think of it as taking your new moss buddies for a vacation while you do some spring cleaning. Collect all the mosses and store them off to the side for a couple of weeks.

Larger patches can be collected as a whole and sparsely covered areas raked out. Set the mosses aside in a shady location, laying out the patches and piling up the loose bits that were raked in a shady location. You should water the stored mosses daily and they will keep this way for a couple of weeks, if needed.

4.  Apply herbicides—give in to temptation

If your volunteering mosses are  pleurocarps, applying herbicides has fair odds of working.  If they are acrocarps it is not advisable. On a dry warm sunny day, lightly mist the mosses with water, do this slowly on one area then another and repeat. Give the mosses time to absorb as much water as possible. Then allow the leaves of the grasses and weeds to air dry. The mosses will retain the moisture but the waxy leaves of the weeds and grasses will not. Apply a rainproof glyphosate, carefully aiming for the intended targets but avoiding a heavy application. A half strength mixture may even be enough to kill most invaders and reduce moss damage.

After the required drying time for the glyphosate, water the mosses again. After any damage to the mosses has healed, you can repeat the application. By watering the mosses and fully hydrating their cells before applying the glyphosate, the absorption rate is minimized. Watering afterwards will help further dilute any remaining chemicals.

Even though the herbicides may be easier, don’t try to accomplish this too quickly or in one application. It is also wise to test this technique on a small area first to check for success.

Let’s hope more of us change our perspective and go from saying, “There’s moss growing in my grass” to “There’s grass growing in my moss!”

 

David Spain aka 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: David Spain

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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.

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

When and how-to water moss

Pre-script:  Over the last month, Moss and Stone Gardens Moss and Stone Gardens; has been sharing information about moss–understanding growth rates, preparing soils, how-to collect mosses, and this post about watering moss.  This series are actually steps in the process of creating a moss lawn. Each step leads up to presenting a thorough understanding for our ultimate goal of writing a how-to on creating a moss lawn.

The first step was Understanding Growth Rates.

The second step was Preparing Soils for Moss

The third step was How to Collect Moss.

WHEN AND HOW-TO WATER MOSS

Transplanted mosses to a new location need a period of time for the moss to acclimate and become established.

Acclimation is the process of the moss adjusting to the new location’s elements such as altitude, sunlight, water, wind, as well as the substrate the moss will be growing on.

Each of these will effect different mosses to greater or lesser degrees depending on the species, their growth rate and habit, which may increase or decrease depending on those changes.

Establishment occurs after acclimation to environmental differences and when new rhizomes have re-attached the colony to it’s new substrate.

To help with the establishment, the wisdom is to provide water frequently after the transplant, but how often and for how long is the question. This will be different depending on the the type of moss being transplanted. An acrocarp has different requirements than a pleurocarp.

ACROCARPS

Acrocarpous mosses are slower growing and will not tolerate constant moisture for periods longer than 2 or 3 months, if moisture persists they will begin to rot and eventually fail. They can benefit from a rainy season or regular irrigation once a year, but after that they will need regular dry spells.

If you are unsure whether your moss is an acrocarp, monitor its condition carefully. Look for signs of the moss turning dark and if there is a reduction in height. These signs will indicate that it’s getting too much water, and a break from frequent moisture is needed.

Below is a helpful watering chart for establishing acrocarps.

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

Pleurocarpous mosses can be watered daily, and even up to 6 times a day in small volumes. This consistent moisture will keep pleurocarps growing year round, if the conditions are right.

The caveat for a frequent watering schedule is to be careful and not create the conditions for problems to form. Too much volume can create soggy conditions that may cause root rot for other plants. Be sure the delivery and timing of the water moistens the moss but does not soak the soil.

Molds, mildews and fungus can also cause problems for Pleurocarps.  When temperatures rise above 75 degrees, constant moisture can cause the development of molds, mildews or fungus. These may grow on the bare soils surrounding the mosses or directly on the moss itself. If any of these problems occur, allow the area to dry out completely and resume with a lower volume application of water.

After pleurocarpous mosses have filled in, and have become a thick and lush growth, watering can be reduced over time and allow rain to provide for the moss’s watering needs. If you are in an area with low rainfall levels, you may need to supplement during drought. Avoid creating a wet then dry cycle multiple times a day. The effect of drying out several times a day can produce a net loss in energy production.

HOW TO WATER MOSS

Watering using a hose and fine spray head is the most economical and accurate method for irrigation. Irrigation systems can also be used if they have the proper fine spray heads and are allowed to be scheduled. This usually requires a dedicated zone and programming. Hose end sprinklers are another possibility and can even be operated by a battery powered programable timer that attaches directly to the spigot.

If your water supply is from a well or a municipal system, you may want to have your water tested for chloramine or sulfur. High levels of each can have a negative impact on moss growth. You can also just water over a two month period to see if there is any negative effects. Using collected rain water will provide the best results over any other water source.

Since mosses must have sunlight in order to metabolize, the best time of day to water is early in the morning. Avoid watering your mosses close to dusk, so that they have time to accumulate net gains in their energy production.

Our next post will pull all this information together to learn how to Create a Moss Lawn.

 

 

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.