Creating a Portable Japanese Moss Garden

Creating a Portable Japanese Moss Garden

Part of Ep. 2101 Japanese Gardening

In Waukesha, learn how to create a portable Japanese garden complete with moss and a Japanese maple.

Premiere date: Mar 02, 2013

TRANSCRIPT+
Wisc Gardener Transcript: 

Shelley Ryan:

One of my favorite places at Anderson Gardens in Rockford was the little moss garden outside of the tea house. But not all of us have room or the right conditions for a moss garden in our backyard. I am in Waukesha with Dale Sievert. We're going to create a portable moss garden that you can put in the right spot. We're killing two birds with one stone here. We're also doing a container with a Japanese maple because not all of us in Wisconsin can grow these outdoors. Dale, I know in southern Wisconsin people can grow Japanese maples you know, the right kind, in sheltered spots. The further north you get it has to be in a container and we have to do something with it over the winter.

 

Dale Sievert:

Yes, 20 degrees colder is going to kill this, which will grow well here but it'll kill it up there.

 

Shelley Ryan:

I think this is why it's one of the most coveted trees in Wisconsin. We all want one. If I'm growing this, what do I do with it? Winter comes, where do I go with my tree?

 

Dale Sievert:

Well, if you have this in a container, as it is here it's going to have to be somewhere where it's at least 20 degrees or 30 degrees warmer than it will be in the outside. A garage would work well or any kind of an out building where it's going to be 20-30 degrees warmer.

 

Shelley Ryan:

My garage is cold. The root ball would probably still freeze in there. Is that okay, as long as it's not out in the wind?

 

Dale Sievert:

That's correct. It's the temperature that's the primary problem. Yeah, it will be fine in the garage if it freezes.

 

Shelley Ryan:

Okay, so I have a chance at something like this. We've already got a miniature garden going here. Now you've done something wonderful. You've added a variety of mosses that are just awesome. You really have a passion for Japanese gardening and obviously for mosses. So let's talk about what you've done to turn this into a little Japanese garden.

 

Dale Sievert:

What you see here are three perhaps even four different species of mosses. This one is called Anomodon nostratus. It grows very well. It prefers alkaline conditions. People think mosses require acid, but many do not. This loves alkaline conditions. This is growing on limestone rock.

 

Shelley Ryan:

Oh, it's right on the rock.

 

Dale Sievert:

I just found it out in nature. If you plant it anywhere around it will spread over limestone that you have.

 

Shelley Ryan:

You've got another one at the base of the tree. It just begs to be touched, it's so soft. What it that?

 

Dale Sievert:

It's called Atrichum altechristatum.

 

Shelley Ryan:

Easy for you to say!

 

Dale Sievert:

That's the genus and the species. This is probably the most common moss around here. This is called Plagiomnium cuspidatum.

 

Shelley Ryan:

I'm kind of surprised, you just picked it up out of the dirt. They're not going to develop roots? What happened to the roots?

 

Dale Sievert:

No mosses have roots. They developed 400 to 450 million years ago and the early ones just didn't think of putting down roots, I suppose. They didn't develop until quite a bit later, roots.

 

Shelley Ryan:

So we're talking ancient, ancient species.

 

Dale Sievert:

It's quite old. Mosses have what are called rhizoids. They will attach to the soil, rock, wood, or anything so the wind doesn't blow them away.

 

Shelley Ryan:

Okay.

 

Dale Sievert:

But it doesn't absorb any moisture or nutrients.

 

Shelley Ryan:

Can I pick up this one, then?

 

Dale Sievert:

Sure. There are two species in here. There's Plagiomnium, that's in here you can see. The other one, I frankly don't know what it is. There are 12,000 to 14,000 species of moss and I don't know them all.

 

Shelley Ryan:

You don't have them memorized?

 

Dale Sievert:

I have about 15 in my yard, but that one I don't know.

 

Shelley Ryan:

Let's talk about care of this whole container. For the tree, dappled shade. Mosses as well?

 

Dale Sievert:

Yes, dappled shade is preferred for moss but it depends upon the species. The Anomodon will take more sun than others will. It will tolerate perhaps about one-third sun. Other ones, like Atrichum, will not tolerate sun at all. So they vary a great deal.

 

Shelley Ryan:

So, wide variety. What about moisture and watering especially since they don't have any roots?

 

Dale Sievert:

I don't water my mosses except with rainwater that I collect, because if you use well water or city water it's going to have dangerous ions. Ions that they can't tolerate, calcium, magnesium, and so on.

 

Shelley Ryan:

So use our rain barrels.

Dale Sievert:

That eventually kills the plant if you water repeatedly. Every now and then doesn't hurt.

 

Shelley Ryan:

In a container we have to, because we have a tree but you have them everywhere. Do you water, or do you let them go dormant in the summer if we get a dry season?

 

Dale Sievert:

No, I don't water them, I just have too many. I have 250 containers and big areas of moss. I can't water everything.

 

Shelley Ryan:

It's okay for them to go dormant, they're won't die?

 

Dale Sievert:

They go dormant, just like they do in nature.

 

Shelley Ryan:

What about mosses in the wintertime?

 

Dale Sievert:

Well, these over here, I can't move these beds. So that stays. But I put my containers in a shaded area if I can.

 

Shelley Ryan:

Just to help protect them a little.

 

Dale Sievert:

If it gets so much sun, I'm afraid they'll get burnt out getting desiccated and being killed. Perhaps they won't, but I'm not taking any chances.

 

Shelley Ryan:

It's really a low-maintenance garden that's absolutely beautiful. Dale, thank you for sharing this. I can't wait to try this at home. If you don't mind, we're going to take a look around at some of your favorite spots.

 

Dale Sievert:

Certainly.

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