Moss Gardens: Striking Beauty & Low Maintenance

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To some gardeners, moss is the unwanted companion in the garden. But, for others, moss has ceased to be a problem and has found a place in the landscape. For centuries, gardens in Japan grew moss to create a calming and contemplative atmosphere.

Benefits Of Moss Gardens

There are many reasons for growing moss in a landscape. Sometimes, moss is one of the few plants that will grow in a dark and moist area. So, instead of attempting to eliminate moss from a yard, find a way to take advantage of its beneficial qualities. Moss has many advantages:

  • Moss is hardy and low-maintenance. In rainy and temperate areas, moss requires almost no care. It also thrives in low light conditions and does not need fertilizer.
  • Moss does not produce pollen. For those who suffer with runny noses, watery eyes and sneezing attacks, moss is an alternative to grasses and flowering plants.
  • Moss enhances the natural beauty of a garden. Mossy beds have a lushness that a grass lawn cannot compete.

Designing A Moss Garden

If there is an area of the yard that is growing moss that area would be a good choice for a moss garden. Chances are that this area already has the two elements needed by all moss: water and shade. When moss is grown in moist and shaded areas, moss is virtually maintenance free. During hot and dry spells, mist the moss when the soil begins to dry out.

While most varieties of moss prefer full shade, there are a few types that can tolerate partial sun. These types of mosses are suitable as filler between paving stones in a sunny sidewalk. Bryum and Grimmia are two types of moss that can tolerate more sun and drier conditions than most moss.

Here are a few tips for planting moss:

  • Clear the area of all weeds, grasses and yard debris before planting moss.
  • To transplant a patch of moss from one area to another, remove the moss and the layer of soil beneath it, moisten the moss and the soil, place the clump of moss in the desired location and pack the soil tightly around the clump.
  • To cover a large area with a small amount of moss, put a clump of moss (including the small roots) in a blender with an equal amount of buttermilk, blend until lumpy and spread the mixture over the area. Mist daily for a few weeks until the moss begins to grow.
  • Moss prefers well-drained soil. Do not plant moss in heavy clay, soggy and saturated soils.
  • Keep the moss garden free of debris. Moss will grow quicker if it does not have to compete with piles of leaves and patches of weeds.

Creative Ways To Use Moss In The Garden

There are two ways to acquire moss. The first, and most common method, is to collect it from your own yard or from a neighbor’s yard. But, be sure to ask for permission if the moss is not on your property. The other option is to purchase moss from a garden center. When purchasing moss, make sure the moss is appropriate for the local area and will tolerate local weather conditions.

There are many ways in which moss can be used in the landscape. Here are just a few ideas:

  • Create a moss garden in a small space. Instead of grass, use moss to create a rich carpet framed by a couple of small trees or flowering shrubs and a few well-placed decorative rocks.
  • Use moss to cover a large rock or old log. Spread mud over the area to be covered and press a patch of moss into place. Water regularly until the moss has established itself on the rock.
  • To create a smooth carpet of moss, look for Rock Cap (Dicranium), Hypnum (Thuidium) and Cushion (Leucobryum) mosses. These mosses work well as a groundcover. Rock Cap also works well as a covering for large rocks and boulders.
  • For a spiked look, choose Hair Cap (Polytrichum) moss. Hair Cap moss will grow in partial sun.
  • Irish moss (Sagina subulata) can withstand foot traffic. Use Irish moss around stepping stones or in a rock garden. It also produces small white flowers.
  • Grow a Japanese Zen garden. In a shaded area, create a calm and relaxing sitting area with moss, some carefully placed rocks, a statue or birdbath and a small bench.
  • As an edging to a water garden or pond.
  • Design a moss-covered topiary. Use chicken wire to form a shape, stuff with sphagnum moss, spread with a layer of mud and cover with sheets of moss.
  • Build a fairy tale garden. Surround a moss lawn with colorful annual and perennial flowers.

If moss is proving to be a problem in your garden, or if you are looking for a low-maintenance alternative to grass, consider allowing moss to find a home in a shaded section of the yard. Letting moss grow into its natural beauty will give you more time to spend enjoying your garden.

Last Updated: August 16, 2012
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About Coletta Teske Coletta Teske has 25 years' experience in tech journalism, as well as home and gardening topics. She has freelanced for Fortune 500 companies such as Boeing and Microsoft, published more than two dozen computer books for Prima Publishing and Macmillan, and worked as a freelance correspondent for West Hawaii Today. Coletta has been an avid gardener since she was 2 years old. While living in Hawaii, she achieved a lifelong dream of becoming a certified master gardener.

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