Thursday, May 14, 2015

Is Moss Magic?

Goblins' Gold (Photograph: Matt Goff)
Oh the attraction of simple moss.  A vibrant green patch, a soft carpet on the forest floor or alongside a creek.  Many terrarium builders seek moss for their projects as its diminutive scale suits terrarium life quite well.  But the world's fascination with moss runs much deeper than just crafting.  Moss has associations with magic, with fairies gardens, with damp and shady glens.  Botanist Robin Wall Kimmerer explores the abstract side of moss in her book Gathering Moss: A Natural and Cultural History of Mosses.  Her affection for common moss is apparent, but her scientific knowledge of bryology allows her to share stories of some of the world's most spectacular and unusual moss.  Kimmerer describes Schistostega pennata, known as Goblins’ Gold, a unique moss that subsists in a rare habitat where the undersides of rocks along a lake receive reflected light. 
"The shimmering presence of Schistostega is created entirely by the weft of nearly invisible threads crisscrossing the surface of the moist soil. It glows in the dark, or rather it glitters in the half light of places which scarcely feel the sun.... Rain on the outside, fire on the inside. I feel a kinship with this being whose cold light is so different from my own. It asks very little from the world and yet glitters in response."
Read more about this singular book at Brain Pickings.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Living Walls Create Landscapes Indoors

Photo: Ema Peter, Design: Gustavson
Wylie Architects, from The Globe and Mail
Green walls or living walls are an indoor gardener's largest scale project.  The idea of water seeping down walls might be enough to scare you off the idea, but if you are willing to put in a bit more money or effort, you too could arrange a vertical landscape in your dwelling. 

The multi-story living wall design at Lululemon Athletica in Canada contains over 2,000 individual plants, designed by Vancouver design firm Green over Grey.  Employees that work in the building cherish this bit of green to get them through long grey winters. “On one of those dark, rainy, typical Vancouver days … it feels refreshing to come in here” says Lululemon’s Karen O’Connor.  Large scale living walls such as this need a built in feeding and watering system behind the wall.

If built-in infrastructure sounds beyond your pocketbook, there are plenty of modular living plant arrangements that can be displayed on a wall.  Another Vancouver company, ByNature, offers its ModuloGreen living walls, which are soil-based and come with compact automatic irrigation systems.

Read more about compact living wall arrangements at The Globe and Mail.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Which to Use: Craft Moss or Living Moss?

Craft moss above, real moss below.
Photo by Janit Calvo,
The Mini Garden Guru
Moss is a central supply for many popular gardening crafts, including terrariums, fairy gardens, kokedama and more. When do you need to use living moss for your craft and when will craft moss work? The simple answer is: use living moss in projects with real soil and real plants, keep craft moss for "dry" projects, such as a short-term terrarium, a project with fake plants, or no soil.

Living moss is green and vibrant, with fibrous roots visible when you pull apart the pieces of moss. You might find living moss in your yard, the forest or at a garden supplier. You may choose to wash your moss of critters and rocks if you harvest it from your yard. Use living moss alongside other living plants, in displays you want to last and grow.  Examples are fairy gardens and terrariums with living plants. Note that living moss will not thrive in a succulent terrarium with sandy soil.  Moss prefers richer soil and humid conditions.

Craft moss is also known as preserved moss, reindeer moss, and any other dried thing that you might find in a plastic bag at a craft store. It has a brittle touch like a dried sponge, and may have artificial green color applied. It also sometimes appears in fluffy, cloud shaped tufts. Craft moss will not revive with water and soil, but is more likely to become musty and rotten over time. Craft moss is excellent for "one time use" terrarium projects, like wedding centerpieces or displays. Craft moss may also be used in a faux terrarium that contains artificial plants or no soil.

Sphagnum moss is a garden supply product, formed of the long fibrous strands of plant material.  It is often used or to line hanging wire baskets, or kokedama balls.  I also recommend using sphagnum moss to form a filter layer between your terrarium soil layer and gravel layer, to prevent soil mixing down into the bottom of your terrarium.  Sphagnum moss is not to be confused with peat moss, the short fibered, acidic mulch used as soil amendment in container gardening.

Read more about identifying the difference between real moss and craft moss at the Miniature Gardener.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Easy Easter Decor: Wheatgrass in Mason Jar Terrarium

Spring greenery is a natural decoration for Easter, especially lovely green grass.  Bring the spring greenery indoors by sowing some wheatgrass seeds in mason jars! It's all the fun of watching a chia pet grow without the annoying chia-part of the chia pet and will make a precious Easter tablescape....

Photo by Yolanda at Monkey See - Monkey Do.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Artist Vaughn Bell's Hanging Terrariums

Photo credit: Vaughn Bell From:
We love terrariums as they bring a bit of the outdoors indoors.  A miniature landscape to explore in your imagination, a small bottle of the sights and smells of the woodlands.  Artist Vaughn Bell capitalizes on these characteristics with an immersion experience: a hanging terrarium you can pop your head into for a look around.  This is one of many art installations at the DePaul Art Museum in Chicago that focus on soil.