Making the Moss of It

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Making the Moss of It

Post  fiona on Thu Apr 29, 2010 12:35 pm

I had an interesting conversation with a godfather of UK bonsai after the Joy of Bonsai event in Bath last month, in which one of the topics was that of putting moss in the pots around the base of trees when displaying them.

I myself like moss on displayed trees but accept that there are times when it is neither appropriate nor attractive. My conversation buddy on the other hand detests it pretty much all the time. He also suggested that it was something started in Europe, in Italy he thought, and which we have all now adopted. I have this morning looked back at the multitude of photos I took during my visit to the National Bonsai and Penjing Museum in Washington DC in 2003. What I noticed was that few of the individual trees had moss but the ones tending towards landscapes did. Trawling through some of the threads on here, I am also noticing that there is a 50-50 split of moss to no moss.

I'm playing devil's advocate here: is this something that we find attractive/unattractive; agree should happen in the context of display (the horticultural reasons for not having moss in pots at other times are obviously well recognised); or is it merely another fashion we have all slavishly followed without really thinking about it?

Thoughts anyone?

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Re: Making the Moss of It

Post  Todd Ellis on Thu Apr 29, 2010 1:44 pm

Great punn! I think moss has its place when it looks natural. I'm still learning "what looks good and what doesn't...beauty in the eye of the beholder..." I will also use moss to disguise problem roots and to encourage root growth; keeping the area moist. Moss helps me reduce soil erosion on recently potted trees. It is not a big issue for me unless I am showing a tree; then I have to "make a decision...moss?, no moss?, a little moss?..." Very Happy

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Re: Making the Moss of It

Post  Jeremy on Thu Apr 29, 2010 4:56 pm

Hi Fiona,
I read, heard or maybe dreamt that it was the tea ceremony that first introduced the use of moss in the displaying of bonsai.
It was to hid the soil as it was seen as not refined within Zen practice.

Personally I like seeing moss on display trees, but I like to see it not touch the tree or the edge of the pot.

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Re: Making the Moss of It

Post  JimLewis on Thu Apr 29, 2010 5:26 pm

Some of us, of course, have moss whether we want it or not. No

I do my (sometimes inadequate) best to not have it on the trunks of trees. I generally like to have patches of moss around trees I display -- not a full lawn -- but if I do have a lawn, I keep it mowed by trimming with sharp scissors before the display.

I also like to feature different kinds and colors of moss under the same tree but that's possible only in a place like this, I think, where there seem to be so many varieties.

I keep thinking I need a book on "moss-ology" but I've yet to get one.

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dappled light

Post  Jeremy on Thu Apr 29, 2010 6:30 pm

JimLewis wrote:I also like to feature different kinds and colors of moss under the same tree but that's possible only in a place like this, I think, where there seem to be so many varieties..
If you can find mosses of varying colours and place it on a trees soil to give the appearance of dappled light, then your an artist Cool
or just have too much time on your hands. Twisted Evil


Last edited by Jeremy on Thu Apr 29, 2010 6:32 pm; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : Typo....an not and....)

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Re: Making the Moss of It

Post  JimLewis on Thu Apr 29, 2010 6:32 pm

Probably the latter. No one has ever called me an artiste.

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Re: Making the Moss of It

Post  Guest on Thu Apr 29, 2010 10:11 pm

Moss every time. I hate to see bare soil in an exhibition setting as it spoils the whole illusion. When styling and presenting a tree, we are trying to paint a picture of the environment the tree grew and possibly struggled in. Other than desert's, there are no other situations where the landscape is bereft of ground cover and outsized Acadama, Kiryu, brickdust or catlitter, just ruin that scene..man!

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Moss & Duct Tape

Post  Geoline on Thu Apr 29, 2010 10:27 pm

Nice to meet you Miss Fiona.

Duct tape comes in many colors. Duct tape even comes in various camouflage tones to blend in with forest seasons or the desert. There is even a Duct Tape Scholarship Competition for the most spectacular Prom attire. Once upon a time, duct tape was just this nifty silver or black tape used during WWII to seal ammunition cases.

Bonsai, like duct tape, has evolved over the years. If we take Bonsai back to its prehistoric beginnings, it would remain a worm stuck in China. There would be no Silk trade with the Romans or the rest of Asia. Pot horticulture would never have ventured past The Great Wall. Bonsai would never have made it to Japan to evolve into the classic Wabi-Sabi forms many of us have become endeared to.

The Romans were likely introduced to potted tree horticulture around the same time as Japan and Korea when Silk trade routes opened up. Therefore, if the Italians have been using moss to decorate their potted trees, they are merely following in the foot steps of their Roman ancestors. Italy is home to some of the oldest miniature banyan plantings in the world. I think Marco Favero mentioned the plantings as circa 1000 give or take a century.

The use of moss as an accent to bonsai works in classical bonsai if there is continuity of design with tree style, pot and season. Moss would compliment spring displays and celebrate the verdant colors of nature as she dons her flowery spring kimono. Moss would look out of place in a fall or winter display. Moss would look out of place in a barely-clinging-to-life-on-a-cliff planting and some root-over-rock plantings as would Kate Moss in a big Hawaiian muumuu.

Best regards,
Geoline

Lady butterfly
perfumes wings by floating
over the orchid.
(Basho trans. Beilenson)

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Re: Making the Moss of It

Post  Jay Gaydosh on Thu Apr 29, 2010 10:27 pm

I like growing containers of just moss, start with a small patch and watch it create a bowl or tray of something akin to a golf green.

I have access to sevferal areas of "sidewaik" moss (Bryum caespiticium) where I can harvest it most of the year. One area is in full sun all day long, plus it has a finer texture which looks more to scale with bonsai. In some of the moss I see in pictures of bonsai, the moss looks like a run away mess, others it is manacured a tad better.

I have used it to fill in spaces with one or two trees; however, I prefer to see Mother Nature put the moss where she likes it rather than putting it there myself.

Jay

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Re: Making the Moss of It

Post  bobby little on Thu Apr 29, 2010 10:46 pm

Geoline wrote:Nice to meet you Miss Fiona.

Duct tape comes in many colors. Duct tape even comes in various camouflage tones to blend in with forest seasons or the desert. There is even a Duct Tape Scholarship Competition for the most spectacular Prom attire. Once upon a time, duct tape was just this nifty silver or black tape used during WWII to seal ammunition cases.

Bonsai, like duct tape, has evolved over the years. If we take Bonsai back to its prehistoric beginnings, it would remain a worm stuck in China. There would be no Silk trade with the Romans or the rest of Asia. Pot horticulture would never have ventured past The Great Wall. Bonsai would never have made it to Japan to evolve into the classic Wabi-Sabi forms many of us have become endeared to.

The Romans were likely introduced to potted tree horticulture around the same time as Japan and Korea when Silk trade routes opened up. Therefore, if the Italians have been using moss to decorate their potted trees, they are merely following in the foot steps of their Roman ancestors. Italy is home to some of the oldest miniature banyan plantings in the world. I think Marco Favero mentioned the plantings as circa 1000 give or take a century.

The use of moss as an accent to bonsai works in classical bonsai if there is continuity of design with tree style, pot and season. Moss would compliment spring displays and celebrate the verdant colors of nature as she dons her flowery spring kimono. Moss would look out of place in a fall or winter display. Moss would look out of place in a barely-clinging-to-life-on-a-cliff planting and some root-over-rock plantings as would Kate Moss in a big Hawaiian muumuu.

Best regards,
Geoline

Lady butterfly
perfumes wings by floating
over the orchid.
(Basho trans. Beilenson)



not seen that one before. delightful.


My personal favourite:

Wrapping dumplings in
bamboo leaves, with one finger
she tidies her hair

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Re: Making the Moss of It

Post  fiona on Fri Apr 30, 2010 12:09 pm

Interesting comments so far - I'm hoping there may be more, especially from the opposed to moss camp. I was especially taken with Geoline's comments re the seasonal aspect of using it, and it made me think of when it appears here. The answer is pretty much all year round as I live in a wet but generally mild climate, but I take the point about its "best appearance" being in Spring.

The particular discussion at Joy of Bonsai was in relation to my Buxus on a slab which normally (and all year round) has a covering of fine moss. When I say covering, it is more of a carpet as I prefer it to be uniform. However, three days before JofB it was attacked by particularly tenacious blackbird which managed to infiltrate the chicken wire protective barrier I had erected around the slab. (I have a lovely surreal mental image of a balaclava-clad blackbird no doubt armed with a small pair of bolt cutters mounting a night-time raid). As a result I displayed the tree with mixed mosses as that was all I could acquire in the timeframe. Two people said they didn't like it, others were either in favour or being kind. See what you think:

As I prefer it - with the moss "carpet"




As at J of B with the "mixed mosses"




PS I was sent a good link in a PM re the art and skill of mossing. It's one I've seen before but had forgotten to save it so it was nice to be reminded. Thanks gman, erm...man! It is HERE .

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Re: Making the Moss of It

Post  Guest on Fri Apr 30, 2010 12:24 pm

Much better in the second pic Fiona. I always take the moss off after to see my soil colour for watering purposes. Blackbirds only take the moss off if they can hear little grubs merrily munching your roots. Leatherjackets and Vine Weevil for instance

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Re: Making the Moss of It

Post  fiona on Fri Apr 30, 2010 12:35 pm

I believe it was actually the moss they were after as there was no indication that the undersoil had been touched. Every year I very considerately leave a pile of moss for birds to use in their nests, and every year they steadfastly ignore it and take the stuff off the trees.

I regularly Provado my trees anyway and generally do not have any probs with bugs.

btw do you know the best way of dealing with Vine Weevil? Just always say out loud the appropriate part of the 23rd Psalm.

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Re: Making the Moss of It

Post  Guest on Fri Apr 30, 2010 12:43 pm

Is that the lesser of two Weevils
Provado is the best stuff on the market for Vine Weevil. Leatherjackets are what the Blackbirds are after. They rarely go down into the soil and damage roots. They tend to eat all the moss roots and kill it off.

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Re: Making the Moss of It

Post  fiona on Fri Apr 30, 2010 1:03 pm

The appropriate bit of the 23rd Psalm is the bit that states:

"Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall fear no weevil"

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Re: Making the Moss of It

Post  JimLewis on Fri Apr 30, 2010 2:50 pm

Some moss around trees.

1. Partial coverage



2. Mixed moos



3. A rough natural "lawn."


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Re: Making the Moss of It

Post  fiona on Fri Apr 30, 2010 3:19 pm

JimLewis wrote:Some moss around trees. 2. Mixed moos
Hmmmm. Interesting. Dunno about North Carolina, but over here that tends to look like:



Sorry, Jim, couldn't resist. You'll get me back one day I know.

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Re: Making the Moss of It

Post  JimLewis on Fri Apr 30, 2010 5:15 pm

My trees are all too small for the cows -- unlike some of your European trees.

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Re: Making the Moss of It

Post  JimLewis on Sat May 01, 2010 3:08 pm

In a bit of serendipity (if you believe in such a concept), an issue of "Carolina Home and Garden" a glossy freebie magazine for the Carolinas arrived yesterday with an article about "Mossin' Annie" a grower of moss gardens in the area. According to her, more than 450 species of bryophytes (liverworts, hornworts and mosses) grow in Western North Carolina (I wasn't kidding when I said we have no choice about moss in our pots).

Anyway, I offer for your perusal her website www.mountainmoss.com. Some nice stuff (and some pretty specialized moss garden, "arty" stuff, too, but I commend you to "What is Moss?" for those whi insist that moss has roots, and the Gallery, at which you will find pictures of various mosses. I suspect you can even buy some moss from somewhere on her site. Me, I'd like to sell her some.

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