The Moss Garden at Mid-Mitigation

We have been on this property for two and a half years–exactly halfway through the five-year Mitigation Period–and I began my ‘Do Over’ in the clearing in February of 2011.   Because of the naturally occurring native mosses here and there, I decided that a moss garden would bring the whole forest clearing ‘look’ together. 

Using George Schenk as my moss guru, I began transplanting smallish pads of moss about the clearing, and cribbing a page from the spectacular Moss Garden at the Bloedel Reserve, filling in some of the blank soil with low-growing ground covers which resemble bryophtic moss; and also some other plants analogous to the native mosses and Selaginella (selaginalogous!).   I had read that it could take years to fully establish a moss garden.  It isn’t a gardening style for the impatient.

It is only two years later, and moss now covers 90% or more of the soil in the clearing and the surrounding woodland margin.  The non-native groundcovers are being consumed, covered, and colonized by the native mosses.  Even my Elongated Applications of Weed-Suppressing Mulch show the viridian starts of moss colonies–as I have previously confessed, they are NOT Elongated Applications of Weed-Suppressing Mulch, but are in fact the paths I was not supposed to have, where I covered the habitual track of deer through the woods with cedar chips.   It is very difficult to grow many things in this clearing–plants, for instance–but moss grows like crazy.  It was a good choice.

I have religiously kept the ground clear of weeds and competing vegetation, and no Zen monk-in-training ever collected leaves with greater thoroughness than I (Zen monks don’t use gas-powered leaf sucker/shredders, though).  I relinquish ownership of the clearing next week, and who knows what will become of it; but I am extremely pleased with where I got to at just the halfway mark of the five-year plan.

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13 Responses to The Moss Garden at Mid-Mitigation

  1. Corene says:


  2. Chad B says:

    Calvin, that is an impressive amount of moss. My daughter found a pathetic 6-inch patch of moss on a tree in our new yard and she didn’t know what it was. Too much sun too little water for a lot of moss here. But, wow, you’ve got carpets of it! You were a good steward of the land.

    • calvincaley says:

      Thank you, Chad. It is funny to think I started out in idealogical ‘rebellion,’ but the garden itself spoke to me, in a way. I just wanted to ride the way the horse was running. A good steward…that is humbling.

  3. rainyleaf says:

    You are my hero! It’s really great to see that you’ve created this amazing moss garden in only two and a half years. It’s truly beautiful. Someday I hope to create such a garden, but for now I’ll just stare at the moss on my roof and dream…

  4. Love the Trilliums in your banner. Mine are just now starting to bloom. That is the official beginning of spring for me. I hike in the mountains so I really appreciate what you are doing in your landscaping plan.

  5. I love moss. How great for you to live in an area where it grows so luxuriantly.

    • calvincaley says:

      I am moving to a home with a shake roof, so somewhat less desirable than at a home where I really WANT it to grow! I am probably going to have to change that.

  6. I have always been in awe with your moss achievements. You definitely should feel pleased with all you’ve accomplished. I will certainly miss the moss photos. Thanks Calvin.

    • calvincaley says:

      Thank you so much, Mario. I love the moss very much also and will miss it. My new property has a natural area that has been mostly yard waste disposal, so once I have the brushpiles and debris removed I’ll likely make a much smaller version. Even though I have never liked repeating myself in anything, what is good is good.

  7. Jason says:

    It’s a shame you will be leaving such beautiful scenery. Good luck working your wonders at your new place! It’s amazing what you were able to accomplish in so little time! (what the zen monks don’t know won’t hurt ’em)

    • calvincaley says:

      Thank you very much, Jason. I have made two quite lovely backyards before this, ‘normal-ish’ yards that anyone could have cared for, or could have hired done if they weren’t interested. This one, obviously, is a bit different. I am pretty sure it couldn’t be hired out, as just the raking of leaves could spell its doom, and anyone who was not me might have more than a little trouble with it. Interestingly, the new people have said that it was the view on the clearing that ‘sold’ them, and they “don’t want to change a thing.” They also have had three landscape architects out to look at the land, someone to design a chicken coop and a vegetable garden, a patio builder and a deck company to do estimates, and they would like to build a privacy fence with an electric security gate across the front. But they ‘don’t want to change a thing.’ My Dad always said, Whatever you do that makes your home interesting or makes people LOVE it, that is the first thing they change. Over the course of owning three homes, I’d say he’s right. I looked at your site, I wish you were closer to me. My new property needs lots of LV lighting, I think. And a lot less ivy.

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