Because moss holds moisture so well, a plethora of shallow-rooted plants, including ferns, grow readily in it — bringing enjoyment and deep satisfaction to many woodland gardeners.
On a recent trip to Pennsylvania, I was fortunate enough to visit the moss garden of David Benner. Benner has been growing moss in his garden for more 50 years. One of his sons runs Moss Acres, a specialty mail-order moss nursery. Benner's appreciation for this primitive plant was evident as he gave me a two-hour tour of his garden. Here he is shown with a prized moss-covered rock that he has been nurturing for 50 years.
Let's look at how Benner grows moss.
He says moss will grow where it wants to grow. To encourage it, he recommends preparing a flat, shaded section of your garden by making sure that the chosen area has moisture-retentive soil and is raked clean. He recommends amending garden soil with humus, which retains moisture and will provide the moss with essential nutrients.
Moss may be commercially purchased. Specialty nurseries such as Moss Acres sell it by the square foot. You can also introduce it by crumbling dry moss and scattering it throughout your planting area, as long as the area stays consistently moist.
Finally, slurries or "milkshakes" of moss can be prepared by placing moss, along with buttermilk or plain yogurt, in a blender and mixing thoroughly. A can of beer plus two cubes of sugar, or even manure diluted with water, may be mixed with the moss as well.
As is evident from the photos of Benner's garden, moss is right at home in a rustic woodland garden. This photo shows 50-year-old moss happily growing on his rock wall. Moss will generally be at home where ferns and rhododendron flourish.