Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Enjoy Your Moss

With the lack of snow cover and warmer temperatures, our moss out in the gardens is perking up nicely. Mosses stay green throughout the winter as they continue to photosynthesize if exposed to direct sunlight. The two horizontal photos above and two below were sent to me today from Dale S. (aka "Mr. Moss") from his garden in Waukesha, WI. Dale has an unbelievable garden (beyond mosses too!) and has collected/incorporated mosses throughout his garden which does have plenty of shade. I met Dale years ago and have visited his garden twice in the past couple of years. His uses of moss would inspire anyone to consider utilizing them more actively as a design element in the garden. He is dabbling with many types of moss (he knows the Latin names too!) and has mosses in a full sun location (including the two moss shots further below). Dale has visited RBG many times and has seen our "moss island" in the fern & moss garden. Dale will be consulting with us this year and giving some advice on moss selection and establishment. In fact, he's already been scouting some mosses for our garden. I don't recall where I took the shot to the above right, but it sure shows the value of moss as a garden element and groundcover. To the left is a wonderful, award-winning resource on Moss Gardening by George Schenk that I highly recommend for those that might be interested in this topic.

Our moss island started over eight years ago with Jenny and Janice transplanting moss patches that we found already existing in the gardens. We did actually mail order some mosses and learned a lot about provenance (place of origin) and how it relates to establishment. All those mosses died quickly. Janice has been responsible for keeping an eye on the moss for many years now and keeps up with watering, tidying, augmenting, etc. Recently, Marv has contributed some mosses, clubmosses, mossy rocks, etc. and has helped out too. It will be nice to get Dale's perspective on improving this garden space as we have all liked what he is doing at home. Images of his moss garden were included in an article (on that topic) in the American Gardener magazine, the publication for the American Horticultural Society. To the right is a shot I took in the front yard of Dale's garden two years ago when the grounds staff took a trip out there and then down to the Morton Arboretum. This is a full sun patch of moss that has further established and Dale's recent shots below are from that same area. That reddish haze is created by the sporophyte stage of the moss which has no flowers or seeds and relies on dissemination of fertile spores. Mosses also don't need soil (see the top photo) because they don't have true roots (rhizoids) and receive nutrients from rainwater on an intercellular level. With a 400 million year history, mosses continue to be an important part of a wide range of landscapes and WI has over 400 types of native mosses alone! When you're next outside, take a look at how green those mosses are between the cracks in the bricks, under the gutters, at the base of the tree and any where else they have happily established. The biology of mosses is quite interesting and well worth further research.

We had some activity both at the Horticulture Center and out in the gardens today. Urban was out pruning in the woodland walk garden for a good portion of the day (see bottom photo). With the warm weather, the maples (Acer sp.) are really "bleeding" as seen to the right on this sugar maple (Acer saccharum). Look up higher to the left in that image and see the little sap icicles (sapcicles) forming! Urban and I did a little pruning walk and Jumbo Jim joined us for a bit before checking out the Japanese and alpine gardens. We saw some of the youth education volunteers from a distance as they were preparing for future program out in the arboretum. Everyone was bundled up but I recognized Shirley, Mary B., Barb and an "unidentifiable" (maybe Bev). To the left is the interesting and ornamental bark of the Kentucky coffeetree (Gymnocladus dioicus).

Dr. Gredler was in to paint more obelisks. Luis caught up with creating the next batch of woody plant labels and Gary was over to help him troubleshoot some of the recent problems. Janice was in to work on plant sale information and signs. We also saw Phil, Barry, Maury, John C. and some others today.

I finished some preparations for the WPT Garden Expo ( this weekend. Tomorrow we'll pack everything up in the truck and trailer for our Friday morning expedition (Big John and I are setting up). All of my talks are ready but I had to finish my talk on "Annuals for Scent" that I'll be giving at Olbrich Botanical Gardens (Madison, WI) next Monday. This was a fun topic (new for me) to prepare as I haven't focused just specifically on fragrant annuals and I had no shortage of images that I took in our Smelly Garden last year. I also made a couple more plant orders and am trying to find the last of some specialty items that I'd like for our compositions this year. To the right is distance view of the arched bridge thru the exfoliating bark on the river birch (Betula nigra 'Heritage'). We just finished details for our 2012 Garden Photography Contest and details can be found at We're exactly two months away from the RBG Netherlands Trip and just found out there is last minute room for any interested parties. Contact me if you have any interest. The itinerary is on our website.

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