Tag Archives: NC

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

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

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

 

Dividing and Fragmenting Mosses

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

David Spain a.k.a. Moss Rock

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

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

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

Southern Living – My mossy roots

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Moss Rocks!’s David Spain on GardenLine Radio with C.L. Fornari


The ever enthusiastic moss man, David Spain recently talked moss with  gardening enthusiast, C.L. Fornari on  Gardenline,  It was mossome!  Check it out.

C.L.’s interview probed moss in general, plus  how Moss Rocks! came to be.

 

 

 

David Spain is a passionate moss expert, pioneering moss cultivation, working to educate gardeners of the perils of wild harvesting of mosses and to, instead, help them develop sustainable propagation techniques.

Did you know Moss Rocks! is a home decor item using a specialized ceramic container, with a patent pending design to maintain and display Dicranum mosses? The use of Dicranum moss makes this gift item uniquely suited for low maintenance care, indoors and out.

For more on moss education, listen in by clicking below  

 

 

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.

The Moss Farm at Moss and Stone Gardens, Raleigh, NC

At noon, when I pulled into the driveway of The Moss Farm, in Raleigh, NC, the newspaper still sat by the curb.  Moss does that to you; the news of the day can wait until solitude and serenity from the moss garden recharges your soul.  It’s best to begin the day with moss mellowing one’s mood, making it more tolerable to read what’s above the fold.

The air is warm as I enter the sun drenched front garden of The Moss Farm.  Immediately, I’m drawn to the moss garden on the side of the property.  Rushed, yet focused on tasks at hand, I take a step into the moss garden and most of must-dos for my busy day, melts away.  A mere step into the dappled shade from newly leafed trees, protecting the moss floor, and I am transformed.  Moss is the only thing now on my mind.

I pause at this first step to take in the view.  The design is such so the view is not taken in all at once.  As I surveyed the scene, I heard the sound of music — tranquil music.  I wondered if was playing as I walked up or did I somehow trigger a switch with my first step.  From this gardener’s perspective, the music was the perfect match to moss.  If I was a musician, no doubt, I would find the moss a perfect match to the music.

Further steps revealed the garden slowly.  I’m lost in the seductive scenes.  Just as I’m about to take my next step, David Spain and Ken Gergle, co-owners of Moss and Stone Gardens greet me with smiles.  As if they could read my mind, they let the moment linger.  They know I’m lost in my thoughts.  After a moment, we hug our hellos and they prepare me for a tour of The Moss Farm; first of the demonstration gardens, then the farm itself.

It wasn’t long before David suggested I take off my sandals and walk barefoot in the

Patricia Spain allows the moss to touch her toes. With a lifetime of experience with moss, she is able to somehow control the moss's magical hold

moss.  I declined with no explanation.  I wasn’t ready for that.  I was already too vulnerable.  I wanted to be able to keep my wits about me.  I knew if my toes touched the moss, I would loose my focus even more than I already had and would delve into fantasies of ancient lore.  I couldn’t be tempted; after all, I was there on business.  Perhaps another time when I’m there on a social call.

 

David explained the work planned for the gardens before he will allow them presented for magazine publication.  I understood.  David is building a garden that will last a lifetime; there was no need to rush the exposure.  Still, the gardens certainly could be photographed today for any of the finest publications.  David, however, is a perfectionist. He will let me know when it’s time.

From the demonstration garden, we walked down to the fields of moss.  Fascinated by how the mosses were sequestered and grown on landscape cloth, I found each area with a separate, sustainable crop.

The mosses grown in The Moss Farm are for purchase by individuals, used in The Moss and Stone Gardens dish designs, as well as, used in the landscape designs David and Ken are so highly respected and known for.  The tour left me even more committed to learning about mosses.

Hours later, I had to regain my composure to re-enter the world of appointments and commitments.  I was afraid it would be difficult to do, but I stepped back into the sun drenched front garden and my normal hectic pace returned.  It’s as if the spell of the moss’s magic released her hold.  Indeed, even the sound of the music was gone.  But then driving to my next appointment, as I entered into the busy traffic, my mood was mellow; a mood entirely different then on my drive to The Moss Farm.  Moss mellowed me.  I left the Moss Farm a little less stressed about my everyday worries.

 

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.