Samurai movies, anime, and moss gardens... what do they have in common? All three rose to popularity in Japan before moving west into our cultural consciousness. In the case of moss gardens, the Japanese have been growing them for centuries; from a religious perspective, moss gardens have been thought to elicit a calm, contemplative state of mind.
There are many different mosses from which to choose as you plan your garden - yellows, greens, browns, even white varieties. Some, like cushion mosses, provide just what their name suggests, while rock cap mosses naturally offer a vibrant covering on any large rocks you'd like to put in your garden. Some plants that we consider mosses are technically not moss at all, but rather are classified as liverworts or hornworts. These plants look and behave similarly to moss. As they are all non-vascular plants, they lack roots, leaves and stems.
Why would you want to start a moss garden (or simply let your current mosses live and thrive, as the case may be)? Here are a few good reasons.
- In many cases, they're heartier than our ornamental grasses and flowers. Mosses thrive on water and low sunlight - good news for the many moss-lovers who live in temperate areas with lots of annual rainfall. Seattleites, why do you labor ceaselessly over your Kentucky bluegrass and flowers when moss would yield beautiful, robust growth with practically no help from you? Many people plant grass every year where it just won't grow due to low sunlight; moss would grow there in a heartbeat! If you live in dry, arid climates, moss gardens aren't the most practical landscaping idea.
- They don't contribute to your pollen allergies. Grass and other pollen allergies are some of the most common causes of runny nose, watery eyes, itchy throat and sneezing that many people experience in summer months. Why exacerbate your allergy problems with what you grow in your own yard? Make your yard a sanctuary by nurturing that moss instead of killing it in favor of grasses.
- Moss-killing chemicals and fertilizers. Across our country, fish are dying and our freshwaters growing increasingly contaminated by the chemicals we use to nurture our artificial gardens and lawns. Chemicals used to eradicate moss, as well as chemical fertilizers used to promote flower growth in conventional gardens, enter the runoff water that flows into storm drains and eventually rivers. By embracing mosses and appreciating them for their natural beauty, we can also reduce our ongoing pollution and keep freshwater fish alive and healthy.
- Aesthetic beauty. Have you ever wandered through a forest after rainfall and admired the bright mossy beds catching the glint of sun under a big tree? Grass could never look so brilliant. You could achieve that same beauty in your own backyard by growing a moss garden!
As I said earlier, certain environments will be better suited for cultivation of a moss garden. First, it's important to understand the basic principles of landscaping - instantlandscapingideas.com has lots of excellent tips you can use when you're planning your new garden design.
Here are some guidelines as you plan your own moss garden.
- Water. Some mosses can survive lengthy dry periods, recovering quickly once they get moisture again. Most mosses, however, require moisture and low sunlight in order to thrive. If the location already has moss growing, that's generally an excellent indication that the place is hospitable to all mosses. Once your garden is thriving, the only care it generally requires is some misting with water during any dry spell.
- Shade. Unlike plants that need full sun, moss prefers to grow in part sun. In fact, moss is a great addition to any shade garden. The majority fare better in shady conditions, or at least places where they don't face constant sun exposure. A moderate amount of sun is fine. In sunnier areas, you can plan the location of your moss garden on the shady side of a large tree. In the northern hemisphere, therefore, it's best to plant on the northern side of a tree, whereas the reverse is true in the southern hemisphere. Again, if you choose a spot that already has mosses, you'll enjoy success with a moss garden.
If part of your desired moss garden location has more sun exposure, in those spots try to plant mosses that aren't as shade-dependent. Bryum mosses, found commonly on walls or in cracks along the sidewalk, fare better than most in direct sunlight. Grimmia moss is another variety to consider for patches of heavier sun exposure.
- Preparing the soil. Weed the soil bed and remove any grasses. Moss will likely kill the grasses anyway, but removing any grass presence beforehand can ensure that your moss garden grows without any competition.
- Transplanting moss. Many of you already have mosses growing in your yard. Lucky you - you can just cut a chunk of moss mat and then move it to the desired location for your garden. When you transplant a mat of moss, moisten both soil and moss mat before you plant it in place. Make sure it rests at the same level as the rest of the ground around it. Most importantly, pack the soil tightly around and beneath it.
If you have no moss in your yard already, or if you simply want other varieties, you can look for mosses at garden stores. However, mosses aren't always commonly found for sale at these stores. But don't lose hope - look for mosses in your friends' yards and in other areas of public property where growth is probably undesired (like pavement cracks). You might even find what you're looking for at one of a few sites (like Moss Acres) that sell and ship chunks of common moss varieties.
You don't even need moss mats, as a matter of fact (good news when it comes time to cull moss from a crack in the pavement). Though live moss mats are the best method for transplanting, you could also just pull up some moss with your hands, throw it into a blender with some diluted buttermilk (naturally!) and then spread this cocktail over the designated soil bed. In several weeks, you should start to see the moss growing.
Instead of constantly fighting a losing battle as you attempt to preserve the health of fragile, decorative flowers and grasses, consider the mossy alternative. A moss garden might just help you reconnect with the serenity of nature.