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Moss Milkshake – magical mix or urban myth? 0

“Can I get moss to grow from a moss milkshake?” is the most frequently-asked-question at every lecture or workshop given by Mountain Moss. Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could “green” the world by painting mosses everywhere? Does this method work or is it just a wishful-thinking idea that has become an urban myth?

Botanically-speaking, bryophytes (mosses) can grow asexually from plant or leaf fragments. As their tiny rhizoids emerge (equivalent of roots), mosses can attach to all kinds of surfaces – soil, rock, brick, concrete yard art, forest driftwood and more. If the substrate is porous or has nooks and crannies where moisture accumulates, then the stage is set for mosses to grow. Once moss rhizoids are effectively attached, they can even live in vertical spaces. So, conceptually the moss milkshake might work. But...let's look at other factors that might affect your success or hamper your efforts.

First, you need to use a moss species that will like growing in your microclimate and on your intended surface (i.e., Entodon likes growing on rocks and concrete). Sun exposure is a primary factor to assess. For instance, shade mosses will not thrive in direct sun locations. You still need to follow “right place, right moss” guidelines in choosing your moss starter type. Does your location get consistent moisture and humidity to nurture moss growth? What is the pH? Since many moss species like acidic conditions, you'll need to consider this factor as well. Using any “moss” available (especially dried mosses) ignores these basic needs and starts you on a path of haphazard luck.

People have suggested all types of ingredients that they've heard would work – buttermilk, cornstarch, yogurt, beer, peanut butter, sucrose and/or absorbing crystals. In reality, any of these mixtures function as a glue to help hold moss fragments to the surface until rhizoids grow and attach themselves. They do not provide nutrients. There could be a positive effect in pH though.

Do you really want to mess up your nice blender? I'd suggest you get a used one from a thrift store to dedicate as your moss milkshake blender. The more of the “right mosses” put in the blender and the thicker the mix, the better. Beware: Mosses might tangle around the blades and cause blender to clog up. For sure, this is a messy process.

Once you've painted the mixture in your garden on soil or garden sculptures, there are a number of disadvantages to using any of these ingredients. Aesthetically, you'll have to look at ugly, coated objects or ground for quite a while. Just think, you'll have a buttermilk covering or blobs of water-absorbing crystals that won't present a pleasing appearance. Frankly, the absorbing crystals just plain give me the heebie-jeebies, particularly if you touch them or walk on them. However, the food-based ingredients will be quite appealing and tasty to all types of critters. The pungent odor might very well be inviting raccoons, opossums or deer to your yard which might find other plants desirable as well. In fact, your own dog or cat might be a culprit in licking your mixture and deterring any significant growth.

Assuming you've:

  • Chosen the right moss species for your project
  • Mixed up a good, thick milkshake
  • Accepted the potential of interim ugliness and smell in your garden
  • Decided to risk critter invasion,

then you'll still have to contend with weather.

In all likelihood you won't have perfect weather conditions – rain at the right time and sunshine when needed. If it rains too hard right at the beginning, your moss milkshake will wash away. Obviously, a more vertical or sloped surface – like on a wall or garden statue, the easier for mosses to rinse off quickly. If it's too hot or too sunny, it might dry up before mosses ever get the chance to get started. You may need to add a regime of supplemental misting to maintain consistent moisture.

I'll admit I've wanted this idea to work, too. I've tried this method on several occasions. I felt that I should try all types of variables in my research experiments. I've painted the right moss types on my concrete garden bunnies, smooth quartz rocks, porous limestone, bricks, engineered rocks, granite and more. I've used a variety of ingredients including fresh buttermilk, beer, cornstarch, sucrose and those slimy water crystals. Scientists have indicated there could be some value in the sugar mixtures. My biggest issue was rain washing it away. So, I tried again by placing moss milkshake experiments under a roof. I eliminated the rain issue by regularly misting the objects myself. The shade of the roof prevented sun from drying mixture out. Then my own dog, Ms. Goochee Girl, decided it tasted good. So, I tried again. I can report a minor degree of success. Amazingly, it grew best on the fake rocks or engineered stone due to porosity of the surface.

There are commercial products in the market that claim this milkshake idea works. The dried moss species included as "seed" appears to be Hypnum (which can sometimes be a picky moss anyway). Absorbing crystals expand to become goopy blobs. Their magic mixture didn't work any better for me than homemade versions. If you've ever tried a pre-mix moss milkshake product, have you had success?

Now folks, I can grow mosses but this method takes too long to achieve any significant growth. Further, it's a lot of trouble and time to end up failing. Since my emphasis is on the benefits of moss in landscapes and not on craft or art projects, I find this method disappointing in achieving desired results within a reasonable time frame. Just a hint of green growth is quite different from achieving significant loft and expansion into new areas. Most Mountain Moss customers want green appeal now – not take a chance that it might work eventually. It is certainly a haphazard approach for a professional landscaper. My conclusion – moss milkshake method didn't work to suit me... particularly in expansive landscape applications.

Sorry if I've burst your moss bubble about the moss milkshake. While this method has been perpetuated and promoted on TV and through print publications, I haven't experienced any consistent or satisfactory results myself. However, I am curious if anybody else has had more luck than me. Out of the thousands who've posed this question, I've only run into less than 10 people who profess to have had any real success. In my opinion, it's quite possible mosses would have introduced themselves into the area from their natural method of spore dispersal or fragmentation via wind and water... without any milkshake at all. Please give me reason to correct my “attitude” by sharing your own moss milkshake success stories. Thanks for your input and feedback.

IMPORTANT: I hope that other moss lovers will post their own experiences with the moss milkshake method on our Mountain Moss Blog. Send any photos directly to my email address ( and I'll share them with others later. To help build our body of knowledge, please post now and cite the following:

  • moss species

  • ingredients used in your mixture

  • substrate painted on

  • description of weather factors

  • issues caused by critters (pets or wild animals)

  • other miscellaneous concerns

  • time frame for visible green growth

  • time frame for significant loft or sideways growth

Do not despair about the moss milkshake. Mountain Moss has other ideas to share on effective fragmentation methods for growing mosses. Stay tuned to our blog.

Go Green With Mosses!

Mossin' Annie

All blog content and photographs are the intellectual property of Mountain Moss.  Permission to use any portion must be obtained in writing from Annie Martin. Copyright 2013.

Moss Green Roof in the Sun?!!! 0

Moss Green Roof Again

Cool and green describe the new Moss Green Roof at The North Carolina Arboretum located in Asheville, NC. It reflects the value of  mosses in achieving year-round green beauty as well as exemplifying the tolerance of mosses that live in full sun exposure. Yes, SUN not shade mosses are featured in this innovative and creative expression of the WNC mountain landscape. In addition, rainwater harvesting is incorporated into a misting irrigation system to keep these mosses lush.

Rainwater Cistern

Mister Irrigation

Green roofs offer many environmental advantages in reducing the heat index of a building and providing solutions in terms of stormwater run-off in urban areas. For most green roofs, sedums are usually the plants of choice. However, since mosses already grow on roofs in our mountain region, it makes sense to intentionally choose indigenous bryophytes (mosses) as a horticultural preference in creating this demonstration green roof on the garden shed located just outside the Baker Education Center at the NC Arboretum.

Utilizing bryophytes (mosses) that like direct sun exposure Bryophyte types (Polytrichum, Climacium, Entodon, Hedwigia, Atrichum, Leucobryum, Ceratodon and Ditrichum), Mountain Moss has transformed a glaringly bright tin roof into a verdant expanse of moss art. With various shades of green and textures, the mosses will provide additional delight with brilliant reds, golds and bronzes when in sporophytic reproductive stages. When other garden plants are dormant or dead, the mosses will keep on giving joy, even in winter months.

EnkaDrain InstallationPlanted in 2012 during the summer heat wave while temperatures were in the high 90s, the Moss Green Roof has already been subjected to the stresses of extreme weather conditions. Yet, despite extreme heat, torrential thunderstorms, high winds, and hail, the mosses are in tact and adjusting to their new abode. With botanical characteristics that enable mosses to tolerate all types of extremes, these miniature plants are hardy. In the winter when temperatures drop below freezing, the mosses will not only survive... but grow!

Another aspect of the green appeal of mosses is that these non-vascular plants provide solutions to environmental issues such as stormwater run-off, water filtration and erosion control. Since mosses don't require any pesticides, herbicides or fertilizers, there will be no groundwater contamination. To learn more about landscaping options featuring mosses, visit If you'd like to see the entire production process of creating this SUN MOSS GREEN ROOF, check out these photographs that document the entire process:

Annie Martin, known as Mossin' Annie (that's me up on the roof working) an environmental moss artist/landscaper and owner of Mountain Moss in Pisgah Forest, has spearheaded this moss green roof project. Other Transylvanians involved in the production of the green roof included Joe Bruneau Joe Bruneau, 7 Arts Coop Gallery Director,   and Eric Stephenson, owner of Rite Angle Builders. With minimal structural modifications necessary to prepare the roof, the team has used EnkaDrain (produced by Colbond in Enka) as the primary substrate for planting. Kevin McRae Kevin McRae of K2 Irrigation in Asheville, has connected the existing rain water cistern into a misting system for the mosses on the garden shed roof. Supplemental watering is a key factor in long-term success of any moss feature.

In keeping with the mission of The NC Arboretum to cultivate connections between people and plants through creative expressions of landscape stewardship, this moss green roof project promotes conservation and education through this groundbreaking garden demonstration. Funded by The North Carolina Arboretum Foundation Society, this MOSS GREEN ROOF, located in full sun, could very well be a FIRST in the Green Roof industry in America. It certainly is a moss milestone for me!

Be Cool and Go Green With Moss!

Mossin' Annie

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Fall Maintenance for Moss Gardens 0

Fall Maintenance -Revealing the Green

Like other gardeners, moss gardeners have to deal with fall maintenance.

The main chore is to deal with falling leaves... and for some of us... pine needles. It is critical to the long-term success of your moss garden to remove leaf litter and debris on a regular basis. Mosses require light for photosynthesis and a covering of leaves will block it out. Yet, when moss gardeners blow away leaves, we reveal GREEN.

The best method for leaf removal is power blowing and NOT raking. If mosses are established in the landscape, they should not blow away. I've found that wet leaves separate from the mosses easier. It can be advantageous to moisten your leaves or blow after a rain. I actually blow on the high settings and use various angles, sometimes even pointing straight down and swaying the blower back and forth in quick strokes. If debris has accumulated in depressions, you will need to loosen it first with a broom or by hand.

If you have an occasional patch blow out of place, then you'll want to put it back. Even in a moss garden that is well established, birds or critters might have already loosened it. Over the obnoxious roar of the leaf blower, I can be heard to exclaim my own dismay as a green piece gets caught up in the brown dead leaves. So, I stop the blower and grab the moss to replace it.

Leaf litter removal is not necessarily a daily task. However, it may be necessary to blow every few days just to keep up with the massive downfall from your own work load perspective. From the moss point of view, they can tolerate this moist covering for a while but they will definitely deteriorate if leaves are left over the winter season. If you have pine trees nearby, you may experience a sea of golden needles which need to be blown away, too. They can be particularly annoying since they can get caught in the sporophytes of bryophytes. After blowing, any leftover pine needle clumps usually need to be gently pulled out by hand. Unless you have the “gentle” touch, avoid raking. However, you'll find that using a broom can be helpful. Use swift, light motions when sweeping.

The leaves and pine needles do provide some benefit to the health of mosses by sharing nutrients. The blowing helps spread this feast of "yummy" dust particles. Although mosses usually suffer in the long run from tree leaf coverings, I've found occasions when covered areas were greener than the exposed bryophytes. This observation was made last year with my first experience in growing Marchantia liverworts. Since I'm still experimenting with this type, I'll see how they fair this winter.

Leaves are not your only fall chore. It is advisable to weed carefully before winter. Mosses provide an ideal germination environment for an assortment tiny weeds. You want to make sure that you get rid of them to minimize problems next spring. Pay particular attention to any weeds that have horizontal, spreading roots, like clover. There are many other smaller weeds that can be annoying

Beware of Sagina procumbrens which looks a lot like a Polytrichum or Atrichum moss. It has a small green leaf cluster with a horizontal root system resembling the rhizoids of a bryophyte. To further confuse the novice moss gardener, this vascular plant gets little pods that mimic short sporophytes. But, Sagina has flowers which is definite clue that it is not a moss. Pull all parts of the Sagina plants which will tightly interweave into your mosses and overtake them.

Weeding can be considered a relaxing respite or a labor intensive chore. Mosses can host many itty-bitty weeds making weeding a tedious task but sometimes being up close affords the moss gardener special delights. Recently, I was rewarded with the discovery of a hornwort, Anthoceros laevis ssp. carolinianus growing right in my own moss garden. Folks, there are only about 100 hornwort types in the entire world... this is quite a find! Finally, if you've integrated any ferns or other plants in your moss garden design, you'll need to cut off their dead fronds, stems or flower heads. Usually, I give one more final quick blow as a last pass and then sit back to enjoy the glory of green mosses during the winter season.

While all gardeners perform fall maintenance, at least moss gardeners reap benefits right away and get to continue enjoying their green moss garden even when it's cold. My moss gardening book will provide lots more practical advice and recommendations to aspiring moss gardeners who want to create their own magical moss retreats.

Moss Lawn -- Success Story! 0

Moss Lawn – Mossin' Annie's Success Story!

My moss lawn experiment has resulted in a magnificent green expanse with various textures and shades to create curb appeal. In a year's time, 750 sq ft lawn area is 95% covered in bryophytes. As a moss landscape designer and moss farmer, it has been a priority to determine methods for universal success. Committed to quality services and products, it is important to me to confirm my assertions about moss landscaping... following the old adage, “proof is in the pudding.”

While I began serious moss gardening over a decade ago, I finally got rid of the last grass lawn sections in September 2010. I wanted to start a moss lawn from scratch and determine how long it would take to achieve solid coverage. Rather than using my typical method of contingent planting directly on soil, I used several different substrates (i.e., black landscape fabric, erosion control eco-mat, and felt). My planting technique consisted of hand-sized patches and fragments.

Since sun exposures vary throughout the year and during the span of a day, these sections get full sun; partial shade/sun; and even full shade situations. Planting appropriate types that tolerate this range of sun exposures was my first decision. Using types that I hypothesized would meet the challenge of this experimental lawn, I proceeded with: these mosses: Hedwigia, Entodon, Thuidium, Hypnum, Dicranum, Leucobryum, Philonotis, Polytrichum, Bryum and Ceratodon.

Growth rates have varied with Entodon and Thuidium leading the way. Leucobryum has earned the indignity of coming in last place in terms of overall success. Please note: Light spots in the photographs are just sun spots. The actual mosses are green without any dead patches at all. Although I'll admit the Leucobryum in the lawn area is in a major asexual transition right now.... and, it has suffered a bit from "too much" watering as well.

This lawn is actually a bryophyte lawn since it is not just mosses. I've been impressed with the liverwort, Marchantia, and its ability to attach and spread at a fast rate. The texture of this 90 sq ft section of Marchantia is amazing. These liverworts provide a deeper green hue and massive amounts of magical umbrella “sporophytes.” And... it's exciting to report that I've even discovered a hornwort, Anthoceros laevis ssp. carolinianus that has introduced itself right into my front yard.

It is important to provide supplemental watering in brief but frequent sessions to achieve these impressive results. Growth may be spotty or occur at much slower rates if you just let Mother Nature provide rainfall for all the moisture needs of a moss lawn.

As people begin to recognize the environmental benefits of a moss lawn over a grass lawn, a practical reference guide is needed. More insights into ways to successfully grow your own moss lawn will be addressed in my first moss gardening book. Your support in this book endeavor will allow me to share my expertise with other gardeners and landscapers.

We have an extensive and exclusive selection of moss types... and liverworts at our Mossery. You can shift your own paradigm from grass to mosses and buy some bryophytes from our online Moss  Shop. Go Green With Moss!

Moss-as-Art Creations 0

Moss-as-Art Creations by Mossin' Annie

The magic of mosses has fascinated many of us since childhood. Fantasy worlds for fairies and homes for pet chameleons prompted my first terrarium. In this miniature landscape of mosses, I could let my imagination soar through the cool, green mosses. Mosses make us smile and many folks have shared their own moss memories with me. There are many moss lovers who appreciate the beauty of bringing mosses indoors.

Want to bring the “green” inside for holiday enjoyment? Or give “green” gifts this year?

Mossin' Annie creates exceptional LIVE moss art. Using “forest driftwood” as containers, her designs mirror the beauty of a forest floor. These one-of-a-kind creations feature various mosses with selected miniature plants. Some of this season's creations feature spalded maple logs with lichens. Whether given as a gift to that special person in your life or as a gift to yourself, these artistic pieces will delight you for a long time.

Our marvelous moss terrariums add a touch of elegance to any interior and require minimal maintenance. Terrariums are making a comeback and our terrariums feature mosses and native plants that thrive in this contained mini-environment. By following our misting guidelines, these moss terrariums, dish gardens and moss art logs can thrive for years.

We've captured back some of that childhood magic in the creation of our own moss art to share with others. Our online Moss Shop offers a good selection for all your holiday needs. Contact Mossin' Annie directly to discuss larger custom orders for special events, weddings or conferences.