The Magical World of Moss Gardening

The Magical World of Moss Gardening

by Annie Martin


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The Magical World of Moss Gardening by Annie Martin

“This is a fascinating books for anyone wanting to truly broaden the range of plants they grow.” —Gardens Illustrated

Moss is an extraordinary plant—it grows without roots, flowers, or stems. Despite being overlooked, in many ways, moss is perfect: it provides year-round color, excels in difficult climates, prevents soil erosion, and resists pests and disease. In The Magical World of Moss Gardening, bryophyte expert Annie Martin reveals how moss can be used in stunning, eco-friendly spaces. The beautifully illustrated guide includes basics on designing and planting a moss garden, as an inspiring tour of the most magical public and private moss gardens throughout the country.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781604695601
Publisher: Timber Press, Incorporated
Publication date: 09/09/2015
Pages: 240
Sales rank: 237,197
Product dimensions: 8.00(w) x 9.00(h) x (d)

About the Author

Fascinated with mosses since childhood, Annie Martin has earned her reputation as an expert through years of personal research and experimentation with moss gardening methods. Owner of Mountain Moss Enterprises, Mossin’ Annie wears many moss hats: plant rescuer, farmer, landscaper, lecturer, educator, and now, author. Born and raised in North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains, she passionately advocates advantages of eco-friendly mosses by imparting how-to knowledge from a practical point of view. Furthermore, she emphasizes environmental benefits to our world while placing value on the interconnectedness of nature and the human spirit. To continue your journey through the magical world of mosses, visit her website

Read an Excerpt

Introduction: Moss Magic
Every time I walk out my front door, my mosses greet me, triggering a smile in my heart. The magic of my garden engulfs my spirit, and that internal smile instantaneously moves to my face. As I gaze at the dazzling mosaic of mosses in my garden, I feel immense joy and pride juxtaposed with calm. Throughout all seasons, my mosses have a magnetic quality that engulfs me. Most often, I am catching a quick glimpse for an infusion of moss magic as I head out into the world in my work as a moss landscape designer and moss farmer. What a divine way to start the day!

As I ride in my mossin’ truck along the French Broad River heading north, my moss radar is on and I spy my favorite plant growing in hummocks and carpets in the deep shade of rich cove forests, braving bright sunshine on steep hillsides, and providing glimmering red displays of sporophytes (reproductive structures equivalent to flowers) atop rocky precipices towering high above. As I pass through town, I marvel at emerald tendrils draping over the edges of rock walls and velvety green filling the cracks of sidewalks. I welcome the brief delay of a traffic light to notice some heat-tolerant species thriving on a roof and remember the time I climbed up on that roof to retrieve samples of Ceratodon and Entodon species. While often associated with the natural environment of forests and waterfalls, mosses are common in urban settings, too. To me, there is something magical in plants that can live in such dramatically different environmental conditions.

The magic of moss gardening may start with the way it makes me feel, but many other aspects of moss fuel my love affair. Mosses offer visual delights and tactile pleasures; they stoke our imagination and our memories; they connect us to earlier peoples and moss gardeners around the globe; they have countless environmental advantages and medicinal uses; and they are simply a joy to garden with. For all these reasons, moss gardening is gaining in popularity. As more people become aware of the advantages of this alternative horticultural option, I am convinced that mosses will assume a place of respect within the gardening community. Mosses are on the verge of a verdant victory.
Visual Delights and Tactile Pleasures
Mosses have tremendous visual appeal, offering luxuriant expanses that encompass a range of colors and a variety of textures. Horizontal growers blend together to form lush carpets tinged with variegated hues. Mounding species of upright growers range in size from small pincushions to as large as a basketball. Green may dominate a moss landscape, but you can expect brilliant jewel-tone colors—crimson red, pale pink, tangerine orange, and sunshine yellow—to burst forth during the reproductive stage, providing stunning contrasts.
The term moss green first appeared in print in 1884, but with the range of colors displayed by moss species, I can’t imagine which variation was given this designation. From a distance, expanses of mosses may blend into a homogenous whole. When you move in for a closer view, though, you begin to distinguish an array of tints. Shades of green reflect a tonal range and intensity of color that are a distinctive hallmark of these diminutive plants. As your visual acuity becomes attuned to the nuances, you notice that warm (yellow) and cool (blue) undertones distinguish different species. You discover mosses that are brilliant like gemstones—emerald, jade, and peridot. Others come in colors that can be associated with fruits and vegetables (Granny Smith apples, limes, avocadoes, and olives) or with crayons (yellow-green, medium green, forest green, and blue-green). Some species do not even seem to be green at all until examined closely. Grimmia and Andreaea species are such a deep, dark green that most of the time these mosses appear to be black. Even within the same family of mosses, Bryum argenteum seems consistently swathed in a veil of silver while Bryum minutum goes through a blazing red stage. Sphagnum magellanicum is a rosy, pale red color, and Sphagnum palustre can range from green to bronze to white.
Not all mosses are green all the time. In fact, you should expect differences to occur as a result of changes in moisture, sun exposure, or reproductive stages. Hypnum and Thuidium species regularly shift out of their green garb into bright yellow suits when the leaf canopy is barren or the sun exposure more intense. Many species tend to be greener when growing in deep shade. The opposite can ensue in sun, with golden overtones overpowering the base green as in the case of Entodon species. Additionally, during the life cycle of mosses, colors may be burnt umber, sienna, and yellow ochre. Ceratodon species can be bright green during the hottest of conditions, but after spore-producing stages, the plants turn brick red-brown. Soon regeneration happens and new tips of green spring forth from this dull, dingy state. Other mosses of a single species can display a rainbow of color variations within their life cycle, from glorious green to crimson and bronze colors with hints of orange and chartreuse.
Moisture heightens the translucent properties of glistening leaves and sparkling sporophytes, which reflect a prism of color through the droplets of dew that have accumulated during the night. Some moss species seem luminous because the thin leaves transmit light. An individual leaf of moss in Plagiomnium species may appear light green, yet the whole colony may emit a neon green glow. While moist, the upper leaves of Rhodobryum create the appearance of green rosettes or roses. When sun hits the moss, its leaves shrivel and curl up, becoming almost unnoticeable in the landscape. Upon rehydration, the moss magically transforms from a brown nubbin into its blossomlike appearance within minutes. In my own garden, I feel angst when mosses dry out, and I obsessively respond to my compelling desire to give them a rejuvenating drink. As they begin the saturation process, I regain my own glowing state as I watch leaves swiftly unfold and colors magically intensify.
Mosses can be mesmerizing. A closer look into the micro-mini world reserved for botanists, bryologists, and moss lovers like you and me reveals fascinating details. With the use of a handheld lens or jeweler’s loupe, you can see distinctive differences in colors, textures, shapes, and sizes. The magnified view of neon leaves of Plagiomnium species gives off a dazzling luminosity; I can see how the leaves form shapes to collect extra water droplets and moisture. The petite leaves of Climacium species have a radiance that truly rivals fine emeralds. Checking out the details of leaf shapes or spore capsules with a hand lens yields exceptional enchantment in exponential doses.
The tactile sensory aspects of mosses rekindle our direct connection with nature. It soothes the spirit to touch mosses and experience the coolness upon our fingertips. We want to touch the tufts of green with our hands and walk barefoot on the lush carpets. Our feet delight in the variations in how spongy, thick, firm, or lofty different species feel. For me, the stimulus of the senses raises my spirits and improves my attitude. And walking on mosses is actually good for them, helping them attach to the surfaces where they are growing.
The magical ambience of mosses in moonlight is yet another visual and tactile pleasure. Many times I have danced around like Isadora Duncan, singing the lyrics to a Van Morrison song, “It’s a marvelous night for a moon dance.” Being a free spirit dancing barefoot in my moss garden is a fantastic way to experience full moon fever!

Table of Contents

Introduction: Moss Magic 9

Green Grandeur: A Tour of Moss Gardens 31

Bryophyte Basics: Botany and Natural History of Mosses 71

Mosses for Gardeners: 25 Bryophytes to Know and Grow 101

From Concept to Garden Plan: Designing with Mosses 135

Planting and Propagation: Establishing Your Moss Garden 163

Your Thriving Moss Garden: Maintenance and Troubleshooting 191

Metric Conversions 222

Resources and references 223

Acknowledgments 225

Photo Credits 227

Index 228

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