I’ve started my moss garden.
And the beginnings aren’t quite as small as this picture implies. This little window moss-garden was inspired by having some very tiny pieces left, little shreds that happened as I was gathering moss, plus the small curl of oak bark you can see rearing up its mossy head. It’s very fun having a moss garden by my sink, though (and that’ll make it easy to remember to water it).
Meanwhile, on the other side of the house, I’ve started assembling some ingredients.
Here’s a photo of the kind of “soil” I’m dealing with (mostly shreds of old boards on top):
I’d originally thought that I’d just grind up moss and spray it all over the whole thing, voila, moss garden. Like all garden fantasies, this one was torn from me forcibly. George Schenk’s Moss Gardening (Timber Press), advised me that some mosses like wood, some like rocks, and some like to grow in soil. One moss does not fit all. OK, so one little piece of knowledge rattling in the empty cauldron which is my knowledge of bryophytes (mosses and lichens).
What I’d have to do, if I wanted mosses on the ground, was to go and find local moss growing in a similar situation (there are shade mosses and sun mosses, another tiny bit of knowledge I’ve gained. I thought they all grew in shade). Then, at least if I wanted the easiest quickest method (I do), I was supposed to cut up divots, about the size of my hand, leaving plenty of moss to grow over the blank spots.
I went to the woods near my house and proceeded to moss-hunt. I’ve permanently misplaced my trowel (yes, I know, I could have replaced it in the ensuing years), so I took a pruning knife with me. Actually, for the moss that was growing on the face of banks, no knife was necessary; I could work off the pieces with my hands (that’s where some of those tiny ones came in; they just broke off). They didn’t come with the 2-3 inches (5-8cm) of soil that Shenck recommends; they weren’t (as some gurus say) that deeply attached. The ones I cut from flat ground didn’t come up with much soil, either, maybe because I was cutting them with a knife, maybe because I was cutting them out of pretty-much solid clay.
The clay aspect worries me. Because, when you clear the debris away from my moss-garden-site soil, you get this:
Sandy loam. Really rare in our area, and one of the best possible soils for growing most things – but it is very different from the clay soil my mosses were wrested from, and they were under oaks, not conifers.
Will this make a difference? I don’t know. Next post, I’ll show how I started creating my moss garden (with a little potential fungus involved, too.)
This post, I’ll leave you with a quote from George Shenck, on why more people in the U.S. think moss is something to be thoroughly cleaned out or scrubbed off. It’s a rather grandiose justification for my little moss garden, but, like moss, the concept creeps up on you, filling in spaces you didn’t even know were blank and unfurnished.
“At a certain level of mind, mosses and lichens are allied with owls, toads, bats, and things that go bump in the night, are in league with Nature at the downturn, at one with decadence and demise…Admiration of mosses and lichens, and interest in cultivating them, represents the attainment of a certain wholeness of the civilized mind, a roundness in understanding our environment.”