A basic understanding of moss anatomy and why an artificial mat system vastly improves the visual presentation of a moss garden:

Moss leaves do not have a waxy cuticle like the vascular plants and most moss leaves are only one cell thick. For these reasons as well as the fact that moss does not have roots, only rudimentary anchoring rhizoids, moss must do something when it starts to dry out (undergo dessication). The leaves often curl up and the color of the moss may darken and go flat causing a change in appearance that makes the moss look dead. Not all moss species become visually less appealing upon dessication but most do.

Polytrichum commune, the haircap moss, is a good example. This moss is the favorite moss of Japanese gardens and Japanese moss gardens. You can see a picture of haircap moss on the Moss Pictures page. The haircap moss is a great looking moss.......when it is hydrated, not so much when it is dried up because then the leaves fold up against the tall stems and the moss looks like a small branch sticking up in the air.

P. commune grows well in acidic sandy soils and looks good when hydrated but sandy soils are quick draining so this moss can go from great looking to drab quickly. Again typical for most mosses.

In the handbook I explain an alternative way to grow the haircap moss which keeps P. commune growing luxuriant at all times. Just as in our flower gardens you must know your plants so also you must know your moss species. Some moss species it has taken me several years to know the best way to grow them.

For those people who live in moss rich areas like the Pacific Northwest or the upper East Coast or the Smokies..... sometimes I hear that they find moss a little of an annoyance because they have so much of it. Yet these people live in or near what is called mesic habitat, a rich constantly humid environment. Some of the most beautiful mosses are found in mesic habitat like the rose moss, R. roseum and the beautiful fern moss or stairstep moss H. splendens.

These beautiful mesic mosses can be grown on the artificial moss mat system. You can see the rose moss in the center of the picture on the home page. I have been growing the rose moss for several years and yet I doubt it can be found in nature within a hundred miles of my home.

An artificial moss mat system creates a micro mesic habitat at the moss level. Moisture is constantly evaporating causing a cooling effect simulating the mesic habitat and that allows even me in central Illinois to grow mesic mosses like the rose moss.

Rick Smith

Handbook Excerpts Page 3
 
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