Entries in moss path (4)


Growing a Moss Path

I have been growing a moss path in my woodland garden for about five years, and winter may be the best time to appreciate its golden green glow.

Moss makes a wonderful, low maintenance path, and, yes, it is perfectly OK to walk on it, though high heels are not recommended! Jogging is not great, either, as this is likely to tear chunks of moss out of its place. But the foot automatically slows when it steps on the velvety surface of moss. Walking on a moss path transports one to a hushed and older realm, far from the stress and pace of modern life. It is best to savor the experience.

The easiest way to find out if moss will grow in your own garden is to look for it. If you have some moss already, be assured moss can grow for you. There are about 1200 species of moss over the world, and moss will grow if the conditions are right. Generally, moss needs damp air and some degree of shade, though there are a few mosses that will grow even in the desert. Moss often does best on acid soil, with a ph of 5-6, but not because it needs acidic soil. Many plants won't grow in such soil; therefore, competition for the space is lessened. And this is important: For moss to thrive, the surface needs to be bare. If you want to grow a moss path, keep the earth free of weeds, leaves, and other debris. I rake my path several times during fall to keep leaves off the path. For a few years I had to be diligent to pull weeds on a regular basis, though as the moss filled in, this chore lessened considerably. My paths are not perfectly manicured. It is the woods, after all. I do allow some violets and other wildflowers to grow in the moss path, which adds to the romantic quality of it.

Moss has roots that anchor it to the surface, but these roots don't absorb water or minerals. Unlike more advanced plants, moss does not have a vascular system to transport water and nutrients. Instead, moss absorbs moisture directly from the air and uses sunlight to produce food through photosynthesis. If moss is covered up, it will not grow successfully. Because moss doesn't get its nutrients from the soil, it does well on poor, compacted soil and even solid surfaces such as stone or brick.

It will also grow on trees, but fortunately it is non-parasitic, since it does not steal nourishment from its host. Moss cannot store moisture and will dehydrate during prolonged dry periods. Nevertheless, many mosses spring back to life quickly once they are rehydrated. My moss path doesn't receive supplemental water but has easily survived several droughts.

Moss does not produce seeds or flowers. Spores are borne on long filaments in spring, but propagation by this method is difficult. The best way to get your moss path going is by adding plugs or sheets of moss wherever you want it to spread. Moss either grows in clumps or spreads horizontally, and the spreading type is best for paths. Local moss will be most suitable to your site. Just rough up the surface of the bare ground, put the moss on it, then firmly press or step on it to help it attach. Water it in, and your moss is ready to spread. Moss was already growing in a few places within my paths when I first got started, which is what gave me the idea to let it spread throughout. I found moss growing in other spots on my property and added plugs of it to the paths. I was thrilled when I found moss growing over the surface of a large flat rock. With the help of a trowel, pieces peeled off easily and made perfect transplants.


If you have the right conditions, allow some moss to grow in your garden. A path or even a moss lawn may be just what you need to lower your blood pressure or to restore your frazzled spirit. Don't have so much space? Then try a moss garden on a smaller scale. No room at all? Moss, along with a petite fern, miniature hosta, or a wildflower or two can make a delightful dish garden to sit in a window or on a patio. 

Peace to you.   Deborah


The Woodland Garden: Spring, 2011

Spring has come to the Woodland Garden. It is an ethereal garden where light plays around trees and spreads itself across layers of greenery. By mid March, beneath a canopy of native oaks, hickory, and pines, understory trees began to bloom, including redbuds, dogwoods, and a 'Jane' magnolia:

By the first week of April, the planting beds were bursting with new growth:

Beneath the trees are many shrubs, which offer a variety of textures, color and form:1st row: Pieris japonica; Variegated hydrangea. 2nd row: Fothergilla gardenii; Indian hawthorn. 3rd row: Nandina 'Firepower', a non fruiting, non-invasive variety; Spreading japanese plum yew. 4th row: Oakleaf hydrangea 'Snowflake'; ''Saybrook Gold'' spreading juniperr.

A garden in the woodlands is a shady place, and that means green, but green is not boring! Deep forest green, olive green, chartreuse, jade, and turquoise blend and contrast to create a colorful, but refreshing palette.Sunlight shines through the bright foliage of a 'Waterfall' Japanese maple.

Every woodland garden needs some sort of seat. The concrete bench on the far left was originally painted a darker blue-green but has faded to a soft gray-green.

The Deodar Cedar 'Feelin' Blue' is one of my favorite woodland trees.
When I was painting it, I thought the color of the bridge might be too much, but once I placed it in its woodland setting, it was perfect. I love the way it looks with the lime green moss path.

This spring I added some camellias to the Woodland Garden. They provide an occasional pop of color to the greenery:
Top row: Camellia 'Red Candles'; 'Something Beautiful'. 2nd row: 'Gunsmoke'. 3rd row: 'Taylor's Perfection'.

A path through the woodlands unites various spaces and adds form to the garden. A path should make sense, curving around interesting trees and providing views of plantings. A path can be bare or covered with mulch, gravel, flagstones, pavers, or just about anything that fits a gardener's fancy, as long as one can walk on it. The main path through my garden is covered in moss. The soft texture creates a hushed, peaceful atmosphere, and I think it is the one element that defines my particular woodland space. I began several years ago when I noticed moss growing naturally in the bare trail. I dug up additional moss from other places in the woods and transplanted it into the path. I kept the path weeded and raked fallen leaves away. Now the moss has almost completely filled in, and my weeding chores are far fewer.This is the moss path near the entrance to the Woodland Garden.Last year I added a side path when I found some trilliums growing near an old trail created by dogs and children. I cleaned up and widened the trail. I planted spring bulbs, hostas, heuchera, and ferns to add importance to this new path. Pine trees shower the path with a nice straw cover which is easy to walk on and has a delightful smell. There always should be some wilderness left in a woodland garden. I cleared underbrush and obnoxious weeds but left some muscadine vines and other wild elements.  

Many plants on the forest floor provide interest beside the paths of the Woodland Garden. Heucheras are wonderful for their foliage. Airy flowers that come later in the season will be a bonus:

Top: Heuchera 'Tiramisu'; 'Autumn Bride'. 2nd row: 'Blackout'; "Stormy Seas'. 3rd row: 'Snow Angel'; 'Green Spice'.

I also added some tiarellas to the garden. These plants are similar to heucheras:'Pirates Patch', on the left, and 'Dark star' Tiarella

The  Woodland Garden would not be complete without hostas, as snails and other munching critters would agree. These are a few hostas which are just beginning to emerge:Top: Hosta 'June'; 'Elegans'. 2nd row: 'Francis Williams'; 'Groundmaster'.Here are more plants along the woodland paths with great foliage and textures:Top: Holly fern; Autumn fern. 2nd row: Great Solomon Seal, variegated; Dwarf Solomon seal. 3rd row: Ginger; Pulmonaria. 4th row: Tricyrtis hirta 'Variegata'; Tricyrtis affinis 'Lunar Landing. These toad lilies will have beautiful blooms in early fall.

While foliage is the star of a woodland garden, there are plenty of flowers, often in white and soft shade of blue and pink. One has to stop and bend over to appreciate some of them. It is worth the effort!1st row: A late blooming, tazetta (bunch flowering) type daffodil which is nicely fragrant; Native trillium. 2nd row: Variegated phlox divaricata; wild violets. 3rd row: Pink and white bleeding heart; 4th row: A wildflower which blooms in the moss path; Tiarella 'Dark Star'.

A walk in the woodland garden should appeal to all the senses. Smell is important. I love the aroma of fresh earth and pine straw, but I also have planted some fragrant shrubs:

Top: Calycanthus floridus 'Athens' sweet shrub smells like ripe bananas; Bottlebrush flowers of Fothergilla major smell like honey. Bottom: Viburnum carlesii has a wonderful spicy fragrance which carries in the air; Viburnum trilobum, American highbush cranberry, has a smell which has been compared to wet dog but mine smells like cake batter!

No garden is complete without sound. A bubbling stream or fountain would be perfect, but I have neither — yet! I do have wind chimes. I have them all over the place, and Lou says our yard sounds like a fortune teller's with all the tinkling chimes. But I love them, and I enjoy the music they make in the Woodland Garden.

Even more beautiful than the chimes is the sound of wild life. My quiet woodlands can be a pretty noisy place! The plants provide shelter and nourishment to many species, including this fat robin who let me take his photo:

A friend gave the highest complement when she visited me recently. 

"The birds are so happy!" she said. 

That makes me very happy, too.


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