Saturday, June 2nd, 2007...10:30 am

Create a Moss Garden


TheGardenLady received this question from Greg.

I want to make a decorative bed on the side of my house. This area gets about 2-3 hours of morning sun. There is a lot of moss there and even grass is hard to grow in this area. I am going to put down a foot of fresh topsoil and mulch it. I am  thinking of putting in ferns, hosta, burning bush but I need a nice center piece.  What will grow there? Maybe a butterfly bush? Any suggestions?

From your email, it sounds like your house blocks the sun, your ground is compacted and moist plus your soil is acidic. This is the ideal environment for mosses. So why fight it? Work with what nature gives you. Create a moss garden. Forget bringing in topsoil and mulch and making hard work for yourself. It is always easiest to go with what you have. This is the idea for Japanese gardens, especially in Kyoto. Look at photos of Japanese gardens and you will see that the more moss the better. Two of the loveliest gardens on the East coast are moss gardens – David Benner’s Moss Garden  in NJ and La Foret in Penna. (This garden may be up for sale since the owner and his wife are elderly) Moss gardens are unique and very calmingly beautiful. Someone visiting David Benner’s Moss Garden felt that she had had an epiphany from the experience.

If you want, you can add the ferns and hostas, please read TheGardenLady column on May 26th. But don’t plant a burning bush –Euonymus – or a Buddleia. They both need sun or light shade. Most flowering plants do need sun. Have you ever taken a walk in a forest where it is dark and no grass only moss grows? How many flowering plants are in that woods? Very few.

You have a similar situation. Think of a water feature as the focus piece – a fountain or bird bath would be suitable.   If you must have a plant, consider a Japanese Maple. There are many Japanese maples to choose from; you may be able to find one for the limited sun you have.  Japanese Maples like morning sun, shade in the afternoon and acid soil.

So weed out any weeds or grass from your moss. Spread sour milk or buttermilk on your moss to give it more acid. Or blend together in a blender the sour milk with some of your moss and pour it over the moss to thicken and cover bare spots in your moss. (A friend bought an old blender at a garage sale for this purpose.) And when your moss garden
is happy, you may be surprised to find that other acid loving plants will come to this garden on their own and grow for you. This happened in both of the moss gardens mentioned above. Plants self-rooting know if there is enough sunlight for them.

Please, if you follow my suggestion for creating a tranquil moss garden, send photos of your garden so that all the readers and TheGardenLady can see the results.

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1 Comment

  • Any suggestions for keeping weeds out and killing the new ones. Will broad leaf weed killers harm moss. Any feed suggestions other than buttermilk?

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