In The Mood For Moss

One wall of my shop is completely covered in moss.  Dried and preserved moss, that is. Mood moss is sold by the case; the rounded clumps come with a wiry and fibrous backing which are the individual stems and roots.  I cut the brown backs flat, and fit and hot melt glue the pieces on sheets of foamcore board. I leave a two inch border unmossed all around the 4 edges of the board.  After I stapled all of the sheets to the wall, I covered the seams with solid pieces of moss that cover where one board meets another.  This makes the moss field look continuous.  This moss makes for a highly textural surface.  When the color of the moss fades, as it always does with exposure to light, I spray it with moss dye, which is most likely a glorified food coloring.Mossing a container involves a wholly different process. Moss can be used to line a wire container, as its fibrous stems and roots are densely interwoven.  It permitts the passage of water while it contains soil.  It is a very attractive material-what gardener does not have a soft spot for moss?  I once caught Buck in the nick of time, just as he was set to broom all the moss off of a low retaining wall in the drive.  It did take a little time to explain the beauty of this plant, but now he treasures our living colonies of moss as much as I do.  Florist’s moss comes in flat sheets-or hides” as Rob calls them.  They lay obligingly flat against the surface being lined.  These moss baskets show nothing of the wire liner; this particular moss is fitted tightly to the outside surface of the basket, rather than the inside surface.  More on that later.   

Mossing a very large object, such as this wirework pedestal, involves a filler material.  To stuff this entire volume with moss would involve many many cases at great expense.  Instead, we turn the pedestal up side down, and place a sturdy plastic trash bag filed with bark that fills the center of the space.  The florist’s moss is soaked until is is pliable and can be easily shaped.  It is then stuffed into a small space between the bag of bark, and the outside wire shell.  The moss is pushed down, and into that wire.  This insures that when the pedestal is turned right side up, gravity will cause the moss to fall back onto each individual wire, securing it in place.  Gravity plays a big part in any sucessful mossing project. 

Once the thick outside layer of moss is wedged into place by the bagged bark, and gravity, the bag is sealed with duct tape.  Wood 1 by 2 inch lumber is wedged under the angle iron comprising the bottom of the pedestal.  This is an anti-gravity measure.  Ideally, all of the airspace inside is either moss or bark.  Gravity will act on any open pockets, producing that dreaded condition known as “topiary erosion”.  This is why I rarely use moss in a horizontal spot in a container.  The weight of wet soil, and the action of gravity will tend to perforate the moss-it is only a short time thereafter when the soil breaks through.     

The process of mossing an urn or container is a two step process.  4 or 5 inches of densely packed and overlapping pieces of moss are pressed into the wall of the container.  Then the drainage material, and 4 inches of soil are added-this keeps the moss in place.  We work our way to the top of the urn-some moss, and then some soil to hold it in place.  There is little pressure on the moss in the sides of a container, as the weight of the soil and the action of gravity is always in the vertical dimension.

The bottoms of these urns are packed solid with moss, as the space is too small to handle both soil and moss.  The bagged bark in the pedestal helps make the pedestal heavy.  A large wire pedestal and urn has to be sited in a place where winds are less likely to blow them over.

Always, there is new technology.  One of my favorite new products-rolls of florist’s moss with a plastic netted backing.  I suspect the moss is ground up, mixed with a binder, and sprayed onto the netting.  This is a very civilized and easy to handle mossing material.  I moss baskets and containers in much the same way as I might wallpaper a wall.  There is very little waste.  The netting makes the moss very strong, and unlikely to rupture.  Smooth and symmentrical containers can be mossed in minutes with this material. 

There is no need to fit, soak, or overlap this material, nor do you need to build up each layer a few inches at a time.  It molds easily to the surface you are mossing.  It can be cut, and the corners easily folded inward.  We cut the strips for this plant stand a few inches long, so the top edge could be rolled, and form fitted to the rolled edge at the top of each tier.

Small, geometrically shaped galvanized wire containers can be mossed and planted very quickly.  The smaller the container, the more difficult it is to handle and fit natural sheet moss.  I find this netted composite moss retains its mossy color really well.

The bottom of this container has a layer of natural coir, cut to snuggly the fit the bottom. The coir is very dense and strong, and will keep the soil where it belongs.  

This pair of mossed galvanized buckets look very handsome-even before they have plants.  The structure of the wire is cleanly and clearly visible.

This moss cow was a birthday gift from Rob a number of years ago.   This spring, I took it apart, and re-mossed some sections, and repaired others.  It is the only sculpture in my garden.  Lady Miss Bunny-is she not beautiful?

Wirework Planters

This photograph of a wirework planter and insert lowers my blood pressure considerably.  I am planting furiously-directing and following three crews.  My group-there are 16 of us.  I know there are celebrated CEO’s who manage many more than I-but I find what I can keep track of, instruct and help out-16 is a plenty big number. I do plant pots for the store-it is recreation of a sort.  I planted a few wirework planters yesterday; I have a big love for steel in any dimension. Steel wire, galvanized, painted, raw, faux finished- I find all the available forms of interest. Wire planters need lining-soil and wire need an intervening medium of some type.

This galvanized steel basket came with a densely constructed liner.  Landscape fabric is all this bucket needs to keep the soil where it belongs.  The galvanized mesh is almost dense enough on its own to hold soil.  The fabric will not obstruct the pattern of the diamond mesh in any way. This basket could be planted in a loose, or very contemporary manner, but surely it asks for a very simple liner. 

This round heavy wire basket-beautiful in its own right. To ready this basket for planting-any number of materials would work.  Florist’s moss, in giant sheets, is a good choice.  We call high quality florist’s moss “hides”- large intact sheets make easy work of lining wire.  Small pieces are a nuisance to handle, in addition to being an invitation to topiary erosion.  Wet soil running out the side of your basket-not so pretty.  If you must use smaller moss pieces, overlap them a good amount.  Well done moss makes a great presentation.  The moss in contrast to the steel wire-easy on the eye.  Alternative liners for wire baskets-you have choices., should florist’s moss not enchant you. The wiry coir mat-difficult to form, but eminently effective.   Landscape fabric-cool and easy.
This small handmade laser cut steel pot is lined in grey landscape fabric.  This is a compatible pairing; the intricate steel work is the star of the show.  The wiry succulent completes the thought.

Coir is thick and difficult to handle-these wire baskets came with the liner already made.  The color and texture is a good contrast to the wirework.  Containers such as these are perfect for herbs, as they drain fast.  Succulents are likewise a good choice.  A small basket such as this may not be a good choice for those flowers needing regular moisture.  I will water once a day if I have to, but I like an every other day schedule the best.  As this suits my life, I plant large containers.

This fancy Nancy white wirework oval planter-I could line and plant this at least ten different ways. Should you be shopping, be clear in your own mind about what effect you are trying to achieve.  Something delicate like the wire-I would go there first.  Maidenhair ferns?  Miniature fuchsias? Thyme, variegated oregano, and alyssum?

This geometric wire rectangle has plenty of space between the bars-so a bulkier liner material would work just fine.

Natural materials from jute, burlap, hemp fiber and the like make great liner material. They have great textural appeal, which looks great paired with a simple container. Once you pass by the moss option, there are plenty of things out there.  Fabrics-just that option alone could produce some stunning containers.  

This faux finished wire urn is tall and elegant.  I stuffed the entire thing with moss.  The base-stuffed solid with moss.

Once the moss is in place, I trim off the wild hairs, and dye it with moss dye.  This helps a lot to keep the color better longer.

Twenty minutes this morning planting was the emotional equivalent of a cat nap. These vista silverberry mini petunias have a delightfully horizontal growth habit-very pretty.