“And when thou art weary I’ll find thee a bed, Of mosses and flowers to pillow thy head.” John Keats
On a tour of English gardens last year, one of the things I loved the most were stone structures covered in moss. Some of these gardens were hundreds of years old and the moss looked even more ancient. Come along and visit some of these beautiful gardens in the following images, observing the mossy patina I admired:
I recently had made hypertufa garden spheres and was dreaming of making them look more like old English ones. You can view the tutorial on how to make your own garden spheres here. New hypertufa creations are begging for some moss! Before you proceed, the concrete should be totally cured so its natural alkalinity has had its pH neutralized. Moss does not thrive in acidic conditions. To weather my hypertufa project and add some of the treasured patina I love in gardens that whispers of antiquity, I used a buttermilk-moss mixture I painted on the spheres. The buttermilk nourishes the moss spores and creates a suspension that can be painted on whatever porous surface you are trying to encourage moss to grow on. To make this aging elixir, it is best to harvest moss that is already growing on stone as you know it is happy in this setting.
I used a paring knife to lift moss growing on some concrete pavers. In a blender, I puréed about 2 tablespoons of moss in a cup of buttermilk until I had a thick paste. You can find an old blender exclusively for this use in a yard sale or thrift shop but I had no problem rinsing all the moss paste out of our kitchen blender. (!!!) I painted this paste on the spheres, on a clay pot and on an angel statue that has been in the garden for years. I left them in the garden to “weather”. For the best results, situate your hypertufa or clay pots coated with this mixture in shade and near where you harvested the donor moss as you know moss is happy growing in those conditions.
Once you have painted the hypertufa and clay, keep your items in a moist environment. Spray gently with a mist daily for about a month. The moss should begin growing and once established, it will return season after season, making it look like your garden pots, troughs and spheres have been handed down through generations with their ancient patina.
Well, 3 months into this project, my spheres and planters were still bare! To be fair, I had traveled to Morocco in that time and had failed to mist the spheres during my absence. So back to the drawing board I went. I researched several garden sites on problems growing moss on stone and found numerous explanations. Some swore on beer and adding sugar to the elixir. So I made a beer/fresh moss/sugar concoction in my blender(1 cup beer to 1/4 cup moss to 1 tablespoon sugar). It made my kitchen smell like a frat house and off I went to repeat the brushing on exercise described above. Home for many consecutive weeks, I even sprinkled the spheres with more beer for days on end to keep it moist and “feed” those baby moss spores I hoped were growing. Not a beer drinker, I thought my husband would wonder where those beer bottles piling up were coming from while he was away on a business trip so I had to confess what I’d been up to! Isn’t the life of a blogger exciting?
Diligently, I watched, day after day for a sign of mossy life. As the days turned to weeks and the weeks into months, still my spheres remained bald! Serendipitiously I read a Facebook posting from a French Château site showing off lush green moss growing seemingly over everything in the garden. I sought their centuries-old secret recipe and found it. Essentially they used 1 cup of live culture yogurt to 1/4 cup of moss to 1 cup of sugar! I had not given my baby moss enough sugar and it wanted yogurt not buttermilk nor beer. So….you guessed it, I made another concoction and imagined myself in a French Château as I waited and waited for the moss to grow, diligently watering the stones daily. Two months later, this is what I had:
With fall upon us, I figured I should throw in the towel and just finish writing the post I began 6 months ago and admit defeat. At least there are a lot of pretty garden pictures to enjoy in this post! If you have had better success growing moss on hypertufa, please let me know your secret! Until then, I’m hoping once I abandon my efforts, moss will suddenly grow with abandon when I am least expecting it. Stay tuned!