Mountain Moss — Bryum
Moss Diary #2 0Dear Moss Diary, Today, May 20, 2010 was a FULL day of mossin' fun culminating in a major creative flow. First, I joined other Transylvania Master Gardeners for maintenance work on the rain gardens at the library. We dead-headed lots of Black-eyed Susans. However, the only bryophytes present in the garden are the ones that have migrated by themselves. For some reason, even rain garden designers have not yet considered the value of mosses with other moisture-loving plants. Off to a site consultation, I offered ideas on which mosses will work best in this formal garden. The addition of year-round green mosses will enhance this space and provide enjoyment throughout all seasons, especially when all the perennial flowers die back in the winter. The homeowner understands our spiritual connection to nature and her own delight was obvious as she proudly “showed off” her garden landscape. I left with a resurgence of creative energy as I began formulating my design plan in my head. Since this new project will require a variety of moss types, I went in search of appropriate ones. My first stop was the local recycling/trash center. I'd gotten permission earlier to retrieve mosses growing behind the dumpsters. The guys working there are supportive of my moss passion and gently tease me about my obsession. The various Bryums retrieved will work well in the long crack in front of the door frame and in cracks of the paved sidewalk areas. They were dry and dusty but a good soak at home perked them back up. Obviously, sitting behind a dumpster in the hot sun, is not very romantic compared to harvesting/rescuing in a lush forest location. But, I go where I need to find the right moss plants for landscaping applications. These direct sun mosses need to be cultivated because they have great potential. I'll include different Bryums and Ceratodon in my moss cultivation research project. My next location offered a more serene environment. The birds chirped and the soft breeze caressed me as I scaled a steep bank to retrieve Ceratodon, Bryum, Ditrichum, Atrichum, Polytrichum and a bit of Leucobryum. This area has trees scheduled to be cut with mosses growing nearby subject to destruction. Many were in sporophytic stages. I saw a number of male cups in adjacent colonies. In my solitude, Gucci, my dog, runs around in a frenzy, occasionally checking back in with me as I trudge along with my moss sled in tow. By the time I returned home, my creative juices compelled me to start transforming some ugly stumps and branches into my magical moss creations. They are magical for me, at least. I carefully choose the anchor flower or fern. Usually I use Downy Rattlesnake Plantain, Ebony Spleenwort ferns and Resurrection ferns. I made another magnificent piece to add to my Moss Pointelism series for an upcoming gallery exhibit at the Upstairs ArtSpace Gallery in Tryon, NC. Also, I made three moss fairy gifts for my friends who generously loaned me their EZ Up canopies for the Kenilworth Moss Garden Tour. I'll have fun tomorrow delivering these “moss thank-you's.” As it starting getting dark, I decided to weed my moss fairy garden. Sun mosses require more weeding than other areas. And, those cute little weed flowers I let grow earlier needed to come out to showcase mosses once again. I staged magenta Impatiens at moss vignettes to plant later as my color accents this year. My last communion with mosses was WATERING. Moss-as-art creations require frequent watering to maintain their beauty. In general, I advocate supplemental watering in moss landscapes and I have developed “an eye” for when mosses are thirsty. Also, it helps me wind down from an intense, yet invigorating, mossy day. Go Green With Moss!
FAQ #1 Watering your moss garden 0
Since I just finished watering my moss garden, I'll address one of the top FAQs – how much and how often should you water your mosses? First, bryophytes are unique in the plant world for a variety of botanical reasons. No bryophyte or true moss has roots, only rhizoids; therefore, you do not need to drench the soil or other substrate to reach any roots. Mosses have no cuticle – the waxy substance that covers other leaves (good visual image is a rhododendron leaf). The leaf is able to absorb moisture immediately because of this feature. Most mosses absorb 10 times their weight in a matter of minutes. Given these factors, water frequently but not too much.
Mosses will change their appearance as they become rehydrated. Some dramatic differences in color saturation occur as with Leucobryum (pincushion moss) where it can shift from almost white to a “moss” green. Other mosses have more subtle clues but an attentive eye will learn the nuances of recognizing when your mosses have absorbed all the water they can at the moment.
On dry, hot days (even in spring), you may need to water more than once a day. You can water at any time of the day or night. However, the best time to water is in the late afternoon, not the morning. Mosses don't seem to burn or ever mold from an erratic watering time frame. For years, I've watered my moss garden when it looks thirsty, sometimes at high noon on a lunch break or even at midnight under the moonlight.
Of course, you can always use your tactile senses and if the moss feels really dry, most likely, it's time to water again. With all that said, some mosses NEED to dry out like Bryums (sidewalk moss). And, the majority of soil-type mosses (with the exception Sphagnums and Bartramia) will not tolerate constant, soggy conditions or “wet feet.”
Beware of overwatering your mosses!
So, if it doesn't rain, it is important to consistently water mosses. Even if it rains the day before, your mosses may want a drink the next day. Watering and walking on your moss garden are my main recommendations for establishing a successful moss garden.