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Moss in the Media: Like a Rolling Stone

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Moss in the Media... I'm always excited to share when an article appears about mosses. This time the story is about me in Carolina Home and Garden magazine. Thanks to Melanie Bianchi for her writing talents and Jeff Miller for his photography of Gucci and me. Unfortunately, the photos were shot while my moss garden was still under snow in March. No green just white to see. More photos in the print copy that didn't appear on their Web site. Here's the link: http://www.carolinahg.com/pages/current-issue/spring-10/dig-it-like-a-rolling-stone.php Carolina Home and Garden 2010 Spring issue. Written by Melanie Bianchi. Former media maven Annie Martin senses opportunity like a plant feels light — and she greets it face-to-face. While engineering an Atlanta appearance by Mikhail Gorbachev in 1992, she briefly delegated her duties to an assistant so she could hop out of the production truck and shake the hand of the General Secretary as he departed the stage. “What do you say to a world leader?” reflects Martin, a diminutive blonde who’s perpetually dressed in purple. “Well, I’m a Southern woman, so I said, ‘We’re just so glad you could be here.’” [caption id="attachment_415" align="aligncenter" width="199" caption="Gucci Girl Dog and Mossin' Annie"]Annie Martin, Mountain Moss Enterprises[/caption] Out comes a deep, smoky laugh. Still, one gets the sense that not much deters her. And Martin brings that same hybrid of ambition and twinkling humor to her current passion: rescuing indigenous mosses from development and replanting them in residential gardens. A native of Asheville reared in Kenilworth, Malvern Hills and Beaver Lake, Martin says she’s never taken her family’s deep Buncombe County roots for granted. “I’ve always felt blessed to be born in these mountains,” says Martin. “I’m one of the lucky ones. I didn’t have to move here.” As “Mossin’ Annie,” she’s dedicated herself to the preservation of the more than 450 species of bryophytes that grow naturally in Western North Carolina. Via extensive networking, she’s alerted whenever a construction project is slated that will disrupt a spread of moss, and works with the development party — “everyone from the land-use planners to the property owners to the guys driving the bulldozers” — to salvage what she calls one of botany’s “most overlooked” horticultural offerings. The fascinating facts on moss are legion. For starters, it is, like the Blue Ridge chain itself, one of the world’s oldest natural entities: moss goes back more than 400 million years. And because it survives without a root system, it’s more adaptable than any vascular plant, even similarly ancient ferns. It is comparatively easy to harvest, transplant, propagate, and resurrect after a long dormancy. “You could take a piece that had been dried in an herbarium for 40 years, rehydrate it with a squirt of water, and within five minutes the photosynthesis will start again, bringing it back to life,” says Martin. Plus, it’s pretty — picture tranquil Zen labyrinths or shady Arthurian glens. The word Martin uses most often is “magical,” although she’s quick to point out that some bryophyte types do have a degree of vertical reach, rather than the traditional spread that’s “flat and tight.” Certain types of moss even thrive best in sunny spots. And, if Martin has her way, all of them could contribute to something she envisions as nothing short of an ecological revolution. “No landscaping plant,” she asserts, “could be more truly sustainable.” Besides needing a quarterly weeding (yes, that’s just four times a year) and a reasonable amount of naturally occurring or harvested rainwater, moss spreads require none of the drastically polluting maintenance of traditional lawns and gardens. That means no mowing, no pesticides and no herbicides. So why not moss? Unfortunately, an attitude persists that moss is an invasive species, a nuisance rather than a godsend. Excluding the grand gardens of Kyoto, Japan, moss is woefully underappreciated as a viable alternative in residential and commercial landscaping, says Martin. “The information gap,” she declares, “is a chasm.” But it’s one she is filling in rapidly, thanks to her various pending and acquired grants, including one from WNC Agricultural Options that would help former tobacco farmers learn to commercially cultivate moss. From a niche artisanal landscaper, Martin seems poised to become a vocal champion of sustainability, a leader in her field whose aim is to convince folks here and beyond to sow significant expanses of acreage with moss. “And when that happens, there’s going to be an increasing demand for a more extensive variety of mosses available to consumers, provided by the emerging live-moss industry, she says. A moss emergency, if you will. Forays to Duke University and consultations with bryologists across the country and the world have helped augment Martin’s scientific knowledge, and an alliance with the Brevard chapter of SCORE— a consortium of retired executives who offer business tips to entrepreneurs — and the Senior Resource Network, have fortified her toehold in the burgeoning eco movement. “Replacing lawns with moss means green savings in the pocket and green advantages for the environment,” says Martin. Referring to the regional biodiversity that sustains her beloved bryophytes, she adds: “It’s the right place. And the right plant.” A micro-pause. “At the right time.” Written by Melanie Bianchi. Freelance writer in Asheville, NC. Contact Annie Martin at Mountain Moss Enterprises at 828-577-1321 or mossinannie@gmail.com . Or, visit www.mountainmoss.com .

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