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  • Writer's pictureDebi Holland

Make Room for Magical Moss

Read my latest feature 'Make room for magical moss' in the November Garden News magazine.

Was absolutely thrilled to have not one BUT TWO features in this edition of Garden News, spanning five pages! Click the link to read my other feature 'A tulip for every garden space.'

Moss is the bane of some gardener’s life but mosses are hardy, beautiful and immensely beneficial to the garden.

Moss is a common feature in Japanese gardens and symbolises simplistic beauty.

Why not ditch the lawn in favour of a moss garden, create a green roof, living wall or marvel at mossy rocks in the garden. Low maintenance, environmentally friendly and good for our health. Banish the weed killer and embrace the wonders of moss, nature’s spongy carpet.

Grow your own moss garden

Ever wondered why moss spreads over a lawn? Moss has the unusual ability to regenerate from even the smallest fragment to produce a new plant. This may be bad news for pristine lawn owners but great news if you wish to create your own moss garden.

Simply cut up small clumps of moist moss and place on weed-free, freshly raked, firm soil where you want it to propagate. Firm moss down and keep it moist for about six weeks whilst it establishes.

Moss is labour saving groundcover and needs little maintenance. Unlike lawn there’s no need to dedicate hours to mowing and edging.

Ideal growing conditions

Mosses vary in light preferences from deep shade to full sun so you should be able to find a moss to suit every garden situation. Although many mosses prefer unfertilised acidic, compact soils, others can grow directly on concrete, walls or tiles.

Living walls and green roofs

Moss can have tremendous benefits in urban spaces. Living walls and green roofs can lower building temperatures, absorb storm waters and improve densely concreted areas, which can boost mental health.

Environmentally friendly

Due to its large surface area, moss is a superb oxygenator and air cleanser. It captures carbon and other harmful pollutants from the atmosphere. It could be described as a green lung!

Mosses can insulate and warm soil so it protects surrounding roots against extreme temperatures.

It requires no watering once established, which helps the planet save water!

Moss protects against erosion. The carpet-like cover stabilises soil, absorbs rainfall like a sponge and releases nutrients that benefit other plants, which are vital in new ecosystem developments and provide microhabitats to many organisms.

Say no to fertilisers, herbicides or pesticides; just leave moss to grow naturally.

Good for health

Studies show the colour green reduces anxiety and promotes harmony. Spend time surrounded by moss and bathe in serenity, tranquillity and calm.

Moss is soft, tactile and comforting under foot, which is great for wellbeing and relaxation. The springy nature of moss compels you to touch it.

What to grow?

Sheet moss, Hypnum imponens

Pleurocarpous. Height: 7cm Light: Shade/partial sun Soil: acidic

Great groundcover along paths, stones and lawns. Thrives in shade.

Cypress-leaved plaitmoss, Hypnum cupressiforme

Pleurocarpous. Height: 10cm Light: Partial sun / shade Soil: acidic/sandy

A common evergreen of woodland and urban environments, covering rocks, walls, roofs and trees and an excellent alternative to grass lawn.

Shiny seductive moss, Entodon seductrix

Pleurocarpous. Height: 12cm Light: Full sun Soil: Acidic

This fast growing feather moss spreads sideways to infill between plants. Ideal for lawns, living walls and green roofs.

Wall screw moss, Tortula muralis

Acrocarpous. Height: 1cm Light: Full sun Surface: concrete/tiles

This common low-growing moss has adapted to cope with sun. Hair-pointed silver leaves reflect light. Grows easily on walls, rocks and roofs.

Pincushion moss, Leucobryum glaucum

Acrocarpous. Height: 12cm Light: Partial/Full shade Soil: acidic/clay/gravel

These compact, soft, domed mounds are easy to grow, just don’t overwater.

Common haircap moss, Polytrichum commune

Acrocarpous. Height: 20-40cm Light: Partial shade Soil: Acidic

This versatile tall moss likes damps shade around woods, water or rocks.

Spring turf moss, Rhytidiadelphus 

Pleurocarpous. Height: 10-15cm Light: Partial shade Soil: Acidic

Common lawn moss.

Mood moss, Dicranum scoparium

Acrocarpous. Height: 10cm Light: Partial/Full shade Soil: Acidic

Mood moss grows upwards in round clumps of ethereal, fluffy spears. A firm favourite of terrariums and at home on forest floors, it provides habitat for small insects. Prone to rot if excessively watered.

Swan’s neck thyme moss, Mnium hornum

Acrocarpous. Height: 2-4cm Light: Partial shade Soil: Acidic

This common elegant moss has fern-like leaves and loves wooded damp environments.

Sphagnum moss 

Height: 5cm Light: Partial shade/sun Soil: Acidic

Long-fibered and milled Sphagnum moss is used in terrariums, Kokedama, hanging baskets and as soil-less planting medium for orchids and succulents but ensure you buy from sustainable sources. It has a neutral pH and can absorb up to eight times its weight in water.

Did you know?

Mosses date back 450 million years.

As well as fragmentation, mosses reproduce by spores.

Mosses do not have roots but instead small hairs called rhizoids, which anchor plants to soil or rocks.

They can live in extreme conditions, from snowy mountains to sun-baked deserts.

High nitrogen fertilisers hinder moss growth.

Mosses and lichen release organic acids, which can dissolve the rocks they grow on. This is known as chemical weathering.

Saiho-ji is a famous moss garden in Kyoto, Japan, which hosts over 120 types of moss in the 1,300-year-old Unesco World Heritage site temple grounds.

In Japanese Zen gardens moss represents islands, stones represent mountains and sand water.

Moss use to be used to fill pillows and mattresses!

Haven’t got access to a garden? Don’t worry you can create your own indoor moss garden. Make a closed terrarium. Use a glass bottle with a cork; add clay pebbles, soil and activated charcoal to remove toxins. Plant cushion and mood mosses or try creating a stylish Kokedama ball of moss and soil.

All photos © Debi Holland 2021


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