Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Rain and the zen of moss gardening


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The weather gods of the Pacific Northwest are showing off all their muscles. Since last Friday, they have bestowed Seattle with almost six inches of rain and there still seems to be no end to their generosity. Some coastal areas have got drenched with 12 inches in three days, which equals half the yearly rainfall of Stockholm or Melbourne pouring down during just one long weekend. Our air humidity is now close to 90%, but unfortunately that's where all similarities stop with the velvety, balm climes of Singapore...
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Not tempted to stick my nose out and get soaked, I've been perusing George Schenk's remarkable book Moss Gardening Including Lichens, Liverworts, and Other Miniatures (Timber Press, 1997). It is a perfect companion for rainy winter months, the high season of all mosses; when else do their emerald, smooth cushions look so soft and becoming than during the coldest and wettest days of the year?
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Originating from the moist shores of the Pacific Northwest, George draws from his long experience of moss gardening on three continents and offers fascinating insights to how his tiny subjects have been used in the gardens of East and West. With his expressive pen, he blends garden history and design with horticultural practices into a delightful mixture of knowledge, wit and entertainment. Many pictures in his book are highly inspiring, and George can now be blamed for getting me all fired up about growing mosses in containers, especially on flat bonsai trays. Just imagine low, unglazed trays holding miniature landscapes of soft, billowy mosses: so poetic, unusual, easy to care for and hardy - in my eyes, absolutely irresistible!
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On the pages of Moss gardening, I especially enjoy George's thoughts of what he calls 'ocular gardening', or gardening by eyes only, where the gardener draws back all her efforts instead of bending the nature to her ideas. This minimalist gardening practice is unique to moss gardeners and consists of waiting for nature to plant mosses best suited for the place, providing only a minimum of help by watering occasionally and by picking up wind-blown debris. According to George, in a couple of years, the patient gardener is rewarded with a luxuriant carpet of mosses. Not the most patient gardener myself, I'm intrigued by this zen-like idea of letting go and enjoying the slowly emerging results, even if I know from experience that the reality is seldom as easy as that, not even in a moss-prone area like the Pacific Northwest.
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A carpet of moss is a great awakener of the sensuous human being that I think every gardener must by nature be, writes George in his wonderful, spirited book. I cannot but agree, and leave you with his favorite haiku by Ikiru from Japan, the country of the masters of moss gardening:

On the shingled gate
Where in rain moss grows jade-bright
Earth and heaven merge.
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6 comments:

Fran Sorin said...

Thank you for your fabulous posts George Schenk's book sounds outstanding.... I can only describe the 2nd photo as 'undulating'. Fran

Ruben said...

Odla mossa är nog inte så lätt som man kanske kunde tro. Eftersom jag inte tror att jag skulle lyckas blir det att studera befintlig mossa i skogarna i närheten. Det finns flera helt fantastiska ställen. Till sommaren ska jag ge denna växtlighet mitt fulla intresse!!! Jag lovar!
Ha det gott!
/Ruben

Jean Bradbury said...

We posted about moss on the same day! We are both obviously similarly effected by the weather. I love the moss in my garden and had to stop the neighbour from power washing my garden path as a "favour" to me. It amazes me how much people dislike it.

Jean Bradbury said...

Oh Liisa I just saw your comment on my moss post. How sweet you are. I would love to meet up in the New Year.

UllaH said...

Oh, mossa! Jag kämpar med att få den att tycka om min trädgård. Hämtar lite från naturen och sköter om. Det går faktiskt någorlunda. Roligast har varit att bara ta ett spadtag ute och sätta den klumpen på ett torvblock (som vattnas ofta) och se vad som växer. Det är inte bara mossa utan miniormbunkar och annat som blommar så smått och rart.

Garden Lily said...

I too love the textures and colors of mosses. I've read that one can jump-start moss growth by spreading a blend of yogourt and moss on a rock. I get enough mosses growing in my yard, so I haven't had to encourage it.