When I lived out in the country, I cut a short trail through the woods that were behind my home, a little stretch of about twenty yards. There was some dapple shade and it was there I’d planned to plant wild azaleas, a few camellias, and who knows what else…plants that would be happy living under the mature trees. For an entire summer I used a blower to keep the trail clean of leaf debris, and an unexpected, pleasant thing happened. Cool, green moss began to carpet my little trail in the woods.
I’d been told about a garden in Pennsylvania that had no lawn, only a large expanse of mossy ground under massive shade trees. I imagined it was fairly labor intensive to maintain, for it would have to be weeded and kept clean of leaves and debris. But the garden was famous for its picturesque coolness and natural quality.
Mosses really are pleasant and interesting plants. the experts say that there are thousands of different species. we know mosses as the low-growing plants of shady places that seem to appear like magic on rocks, fallen trees, or any bare ground.
The Japanese are famous for their Moss gardens. There are gardens in Japan with large collections of moss species. I would like to have a collection of different mosses, but it sounds like a tedious business trying to tell them apart, I will leave this area of horticulture to someone else. Although, I understand there’s a moss (Muscus salvers) that likes to grow on human skulls. This variety I would like to grow. If would be sure to impress my grandsons or any other little boys that come to visit my garden. But first, I would need a nice chunk of human skull!
The English, being celebrated for their gardening, leave nothing to chance. This is true even of the mosses and lichen growing on rock benches and statuary They have a recipe for getting moss and lichen to grow. This recipe can turn a new concrete bench into an aged relic from the past that would make one think it have been the resting place for weary gardeners for decades:
A few handfuls of wood moss and lichen
A couple of handfuls of composted cow manure
One quart buttermilk
One cup water
This concoction should be painted on the surface of the stone or concrete where one wishes to create an aged and mossy appearance, and it should be left in the shade. With humid and wet weather, this should bring about the desired results.
If you want a spot of mossy garden at your home, truly all you need it some bare, compact ground and shade. It will appear by itself; but if you want to hurry the process, you might want to dig some moss from our own East Texas woods. This will give you a start, and it will spread. Just keep leaf litter off of the soil and moss. (I use a power blower to do this.)
Mosses do turn brown and go almost dormant in dry weather but perk up again with rain. If you would have them to grow steadily and have an evenly emerald green patch, they must be kept slightly moist.
I was very pleased about my little mossy path in the woods; it seemed to be such a cool place to go from the heat. I read, years ago, a bit of verse written by the Christian mystic in India, Amy Carmichael. Here it is…
“We are too high; Lord Jesus, we implore Thee.
Make us something like the low green moss,
That vaunteth not, a quiet thing before Thee,
Cool for Thy feet sore wounded on the Cross.”
She must have loved shady, mossy places and appreciated their rejuvenating power.
- Just a few of the 3,000 stone lanterns at the Japanese Kasuga Shrine. The growing of moss is an art form among horticulturalist in Japan. Photo by Jeff Abt
- An expertly kept moss lawn in Kyoto Japan. Photo by Jeff Abt