Magnificent Moss

Art by Veikko Suikkanen
Art by Veikko Suikkanen

Today I’m sharing a topic I’ve been busy studying: Moss! I’ve been learning all I can about how to add moss to my garden, especially where it wants to grow in the deep shade from our spruce trees.

First, here’s today’s work of art, by Veikki Suikkanen from Finland. Click to visit his gallery on FineArtAmerica. It was hard to pick only one of his delightful mossy forest paintings but this won out. It’s called ‘Spirit of the Forest’. As always, click any image to see its source.

A program I happily reserve space to keep on my DVR is the PBS program Growing A Greener World and I’ve been really enjoying an older episode on moss. They visit a favorite place of mine, Moss and Stone Gardens and interview co-owner and moss aficionado extraordinaire David Spade.

While I haven’t travelled to Raleigh, NC to visit them in person yet, their website is an amazing wealth of information about anything and everything you ever wondered about adding moss to your landscape. They answer questions and show how easy it is to bring this wonderful plant into our yards and give it a good home.

“What if I told you there was a plant that stayed green all year round and yet it survived on minimal amounts of water? You could use it like a lawn and yet you never need to mow it, mulch it, trim it, fertilize it or use pesticides or any chemicals for that matter. It’s the ultimate eco-friendly, low-maintenance plant, and it sounds too good to be true but it’s not, because it’s moss. And despite anything you’ve heard about it in the past, it’s all of those things and more.”

~Host Joe Lamp’l in the intro to episode #319 ‘Moss Gardens’ on Growing A Greener World.
They share some really interesting things about moss, and show us how we can incorporate it into almost any landscape, including sun. Click here to visit their website and watch the full episode.

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Slideshow images can be viewed on my other blog’s Pinterest page ‘Nature ~ beauty beyond words

True or False facts on moss by MossAndStoneGardens.com:

Moss prefers acidic or nutrient poor soils. True or False?
False – Most mosses are not particular about the pH or nutrients of the substrates on which they grow. It would be more accurate to understand that mosses thrive where there is little or no competition, which often occurs in acidic and poor, compacted soils, or for that matter, on stone.

Moss only grows in the shade. True or False?
False – Mosses have the greatest range of light exposure than any other land plant. This doesn’t mean that all mosses can tolerate sun, only certain species can. Mosses are found growing in all climates and exposures, from full blazing desert sun, to almost undetectable amounts of light found in caves. Mosses can also be found on all 7 continents.

Moss only grows on the north side of trees. True and False?
False – Moss does grow on the north side of trees, and it also grows on the south, east, and west sides of trees, as well. Moss may grow only on a north side of a tree if that’s the shadiest location as the sun tracks the sky. If there is something else providing shade (or moisture), the moss will grow in those places just as well.

Moss will invade my garden if I am growing moss on my property. True or False?
False – Moss spores are everywhere, even if there aren’t any mosses on your property. The spores travel on the wind to extreme distances, therefore proximity doesn’t mean density. Moss will grow anywhere the conditions are appropriate for successful germination and can develop into a mature plant.

Convert a moss-infested lawn into a moss lawn by letting nature take its course. True or False?
False – This is very unlikely to happen satisfactorily without intervention. In most regions, the conditions necessary for moss to dominate vascular plants isn’t adequate. For example, in rain forests or areas like the Pacific Northwest, moss can over grow the under brush of existing plants; the abundant moisture gives the moss enough growing potential that it can blanket everything. For other regions, something else needs to tip the scale in favor of the mosses, like abundant moisture, in this case I am referring to irrigation by man. To be more specific, one would have to water the moss lightly throughout the day in order to give it maximum growth potential, but not enough to give the existing plants (grasses, weeds) enough to sustain themselves.

Moss needs to be kept moist. True or False?
False – Despite this common impression, moss is actually one of the most drought tolerant plants. Also, there are a number of species that need regular periods of dryness to survive. Mosses need moisture to reproduce sexually, but not asexually. Water is needed for photosynthesis, but not for survival. Moist areas allow for faster growth, but isn’t necessary for existence. Acrocarps mosses tend to be more drought tolerant than Pleurocarps.

Spreading or spraying diluted yogurt, buttermilk, beer, or manure tea will promote moss to grow. True or False?
False  – The key here is not what substance will create moss in an area, but what allows moss to develop. The most important things to allow mosses to develop are moisture and lack of competition. Competition can be other plants, debris, or loose and irregular surfaces. Moisture is always needed to begin moss establishment. When mosses are beginning to colonize in an area, moisture is what allows the young mosses to perform photosynthesis, which in turn allows for growth. Leaf litter, pine straw, twigs, loose stones, and such, make it harder for moss to find a stable substrate on which to attach. Moss prefers to have direct contact with whatever it is spreading onto; therefore, a smooth substrate will allow the mosses easier contact. Mosses do not draw nutrients or sustenance from the substrates they are attached too; therefore, anything you apply to the substrate is not utilized by the moss since it does not have the root structure necessary to benefit from such applications.

Blending moss and buttermilk into a slurry is the best way to grow moss. True or False?
False – Although widely reported to work effectively, this technique is usually met with failure and a moldy mess. The best way to grow moss is by division of a colony or fragmentation, buttermilk is not needed.

Moss-and-stone-gardens-Yogi
David Spade aka Moss Yogi

Moss spores will add to my seasonal allergies. True or False?
False – Moss spores may be as common as mold spores or pollen at times, but they are generally non-allergenic. You can be allergic to anything, but the likelihood that moss or it’s spores will give you allergies, is extremely low.

If you walk on moss, it will die.  True or False?
False – Most mosses tolerate foot traffic, but it’s a question of how much foot traffic? As a non vascular system, mosses don’t need protection from being compressed. With some foot traffic, their cellulose remains flexible, allowing mosses to be compressed without the kind of damage that occurs when vascular plants are trod on. The key difference is that their flexible structure and small scale are susceptible to breaking, if stretched. As such, walking flat-footed is greatly tolerated, while running or shuffling isn’t.

Moss is a parasitic plant. True or False?
False – When moss grows on trees, wood, or shingles, moss does not feed on the material it attaches too. Mosses may keep substrates they are growing on damp for longer periods of time, and thus, this moisture retention is capable of deteriorating some non-living materials.

If you have moss growing on your property it means you also have molds. True or False?
False – The misconception that moss and molds are related isn’t true. Moss and molds are rarely found together, except when molds are attacking the moss as they might anything organic. With molds present, moss dies or decays, as does most anything else it attacks. If you have healthy moss, you do not have mold.

Spanish moss, Reindeer moss, club moss, sea moss, Irish moss and Scotch moss belong to the Phylum of Bryophyta. True or False?
False – Including moss in the common name, does not mean it’s a true moss. Spanish moss is an epiphyte, Reindeer moss is a lichen, club moss is a lycophyte, sea moss is an algae, Irish and Scotch mosses are vascular plants that look similar to mosses.

Growing moss is beneficial to my garden.  True or False?
True – Moss is a beneficial addition to the garden in many ways: it retains moisture content, similar to mulching, it is superior to mulches in that it is a living layer that processes nutrients and contributes organic material, it does not become compacted, and doesn’t need replacing annually, and it provides a healthy habitat for beneficial insects and promotes the evolutionary symbiosis of 
mycelium and plant roots.

Moss attracts ticks, fleas, and mosquitos. True or False?
False – Ticks prefer tall plants, where they can perch to better position themselves to catch a ride on their next meal. Fleas don’t dwell in moss, and mosquitos need plants to provide shelter from wind and sun. Mosses are too short and dense to support resting mosquitos.

And finally, I needed to know –

A rolling stone gathers no moss. True or False?
True – A rolling stone gathers no moss. If the stone is rolling, moss grows too slowly to get started on it and the friction of rolling would abrade or wear off any mosses that were on it.

There you have it! If you want to learn a truth about moss missed here, let us know! [source]

 

As you can see, along with a great sense of humor, these guys are highly educated masters of moss and are ready to help us all discover the joys of creating an eco-friendly moss landscape.
For additional photos and poetry inspired by moss, check out fellow blogger Bert’s post:
http://whoisbert.wordpress.com/2014/01/14/moss/
When visiting this post on the amazing beauty of moss, also check his Page ‘macros/nature’ to see more of his skillful captures of the tiniest places of this wonderful world of nature we live in. 

Springing For Joy

“It’s spring fever. That is what the name of it is. And when you’ve got it, you want – oh, you don’t quite know what it is you do want, but it just fairly makes your heart ache, you want it so!” ~ Mark Twain

For info on these and more spring images, visit my Pinterest board
http://www.pinterest.com/GinasGardens/spring-decor-and-ideas/

Keep Cats Safe and All Happy

Art by Karen Schmidt
Art by Karen Schmidt

If you share your home with a cat, here are a few ideas that can help add peace to your home and your life. Also hats off to today’s artists Karen Schmidt and Lisa Jacobs and their gorgeous works of art. Click on the image of either painting to visit their sites.

As a birder, gardener, city dweller and cat lover, I can get pretty passionate on the topic about letting cats roam free outdoors.

Their needless yet impulsive hunting can wipe out a seasons’ worth of nestlings. Bells don’t help. Songbirds have plenty of obstacles from habitat loss, pollutants and window kills without having the added and unnecessary challenges of suffering from highly effective predation by cats. (see info below)

However I also feel strongly about the quality of life for all animals and as a cat lover, having them join me in my garden is delightful and amusing company. And they adore the fresh air and outdoors time. Our three cats are contained within our back yard. It helps that they’re getting older. In the future if we have young ones again (as opposed to adopting an older cat; our home will never be without a cat) we may have to add reinforcement to our fencing containment, or consider building a screened outdoor cat space.

Art by Lisa Jacobs
Art by Lisa Jacobs
‘Bit O’luck’ this painted bluebird needs more than luck to protect it from cats

If I lived on an acreage with room for my felines to roam free without worry of cars, I still don’t think I’d let them. Firstly for their own sake, since we have lots of hares where I live, and hares mean coyotes. A free ranging domestic cat equals an easier meal for a coyote than a speedy hare. And secondly: Back to the safety of local fauna! Cats are impulsive and ruthless killers of small creatures such as birds, frogs, and salamanders. It’s been proven that being well fed has zero deterrence for a cat’s powerful killing instinct.

There are better options! Yard containment, and if you live in a more populated area than the ‘burbs where I am, and find yourself in an apartment, balconies have great fresh air potential for kitties, but please protect them by enclosing the area. The number of fatalities from cats falling off balcony railings is heart breaking. Don’t let it happen in your family!

Indoors there are lots of ideas we can do to increase their entertainment and help reduce bad cat behaviour that often results from boredom. Definitely encourage window viewing. In a house with a cat a window without a viewing shelf is a missed opportunity. Install them wherever you can.

And for some ideas, here’s today’s slideshow of clever shelf placement, fence topper containment, indoor tree houses for cats, and ways to hide the necessary litter box.

“To some blind souls all cats are much alike. To a cat lover every cat from the

beginning of time has been utterly and amazingly unique.” ~ Jenny De Vries

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Statistics: “According to a recent article in the Christian Science Monitor, studies now show that in many suburban areas, pet cats make up 42% of the diets of coyotes. Allowing cats to roam freely outdoors, not only puts cats at risk, but it is also taking a toll on wildlife. Another study entitled ‘Mesopredator Release and Avifauna Extinctions in a Fragmented System’, which appeared in the journal Nature, was written by two ecologists, Kevin Crooks and Michael Soulé. The study tracked numbers of kills by free-roaming cats in San Diego County. The study showed these cats brought home an average of 24 small mammals, 15 birds, and 17 lizards per year. The study did not include kills that were made and not ‘returned’ to the owner, so they are most likely way understated.” ~ Source prweb.com

Links for additional information:
http://www.ikeahackers.net/search/label/pet%20furniture
http://www.petstrends.com/2008/10/07/unique-cat-furniture-kittyloft/
http://absoluteleigh.com.au/build-your-own-cat-furniture/