Moss in a garden is like comfort food for the soul. There is arguably no other plant that conjures up primordial feelings of mystery, peace and nurture. Fossils have been discovered that date moss back to 400 million years ago, indicating that it preceded the fern. Bringing moss into our gardens creates a link to the past, satisfying us on a deep and basic level. In addition, it is very tactile, just begging to be touched.
How to successfully grow moss and how to integrate it into a cohesive garden design remain elusive to many gardeners. Many moss gardeners attribute their success to a partnership with nature, concluding that in the end, moss will do what it wants to do.
Let’s take a look at moss: how to grow it and use it effectively in a garden design.
Moss most frequently grows in damp or humid areas. Diverse species can grow in sun or shade, in soil, on rocks and on tree trunks. In summer it can be a plush carpet that anchors our gardens; in winter its luxuriant evergreen color provides that much-needed respite from seasonal doldrums.
Moss has root-like structures called rhizoids that hold it in place. However, it has no vascular system; it transports nourishment through osmosis. This is why moss tends to grow best at a water’s edge, where it can absorb water directly from a pond, spreading it throughout the patch.
Because moss holds moisture so well, a plethora of shallow-rooted plants, including ferns, grow readily in it — bringing enjoyment and deep satisfaction to many woodland gardeners.
Irish moss (Sagina subulata, zones 4 to 8) and Scotch moss (Sagina subulata ‘Aurea’), along with Club moss (Selaginella kraussiana, zones 6 to 10), are not mosses at all. Selaginella is actually more closely related to ferns than to true moss.
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