Moss, that velvety green carpet that grows in moist, shady spots, is a much-revered element of Japanese gardens. Lesser known is that moss can be used as a garden-design element with just a little bit of knowledge about its cultivation.
Moss can create a visual anchor beneath a stone, statue, or plant, and it can provide contours and dimension to a garden. Evergreen and extremely hardy, moss can thrive in widely varied climates.
A benefit of landscaping with moss is that it makes maximum use of water in minimum time. With plenty of watering, you can encourage it to grow much faster than it normally might in nature.
Types of Moss
There are many different genera and species of moss, with a wide spectrum of color, foliage patterns, and growth habits. A lush carpet of fern moss, named so because its foliage resembles tiny fern fronds, grows on rotting wood or stone. The moss is kept well-groomed with electric leaf blowers (to remove leaves and twigs) and by hand (for stones and other small debris).
Moss, once established, should be fed about three times a year. Use a mixture of buttermilk and water (one quart of buttermilk for every two gallons water) to completely saturate the moss.
Moss can be transplanted quite easily. Some varieties (such as fern moss) can be scraped up in large pieces and relocated, much like sod. The moss should be well-moistened and pushed firmly into the soil in the desired location.
Other mosses (such as cushion moss) will break apart when transplanting; these pieces can be broken into small bits and added to the buttermilk mixture and poured over stones or soil, where they will quickly take root.
In a garden or wooded area where moss is present, keeping a rock or stone statue moist is often enough to encourage moss growth -- the spores in the air will be able to find a home in the damp crevices.
Unfortunately, moss is not a common nursery plant in the United States like it is in Japan, so it can be difficult to come by commercially. To obtain moss, Martha recommends inquiring about land that is going to be developed, and asking permission to collect moss from the land before construction begins. You can also purchase moss from Moss Acres.