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by Grace Chapman, Director of Horticulture, Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden 

Peaceful mossy path bordered by shade perennials and accented by garden ornaments such as this sundial.

Peaceful mossy path bordered by shade perennials and accented by garden ornaments such as this sundial.

A couple of weeks ago, the Horticulture staff from Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden went on a wonderful field trip to Norie Burnet’s moss garden, Eden Woods.  After finding that her 4-acre wooded lot in Bon Air was too shady to grow grass, Norie decided to nurture the moss that was naturally occurring, and she has been doing so for almost 25 years.

Norie is definitely a gardener with an artist’s eye.  She creates interest with sweeps of varying textures and endless shades of green.  She spoke to us about balancing textures, colors, and shapes in the garden.  She also adds whimsy to the garden by tucking fairy houses into shady corners.

Sweeps of perennials show the artist-gardener's attention to balance, texture, color, and mass.

Sweeps of perennials show the artist-gardener’s attention to balance, texture, color, and mass.

Whimsical fairy houses can be found tucked in shady corners of this peaceful garden.

Whimsical fairy houses can be found tucked in shady corners of this peaceful garden.

Norie has identified 14 different types of moss in her garden, but she has much more than just moss.  We were delighted to find a very diverse collection of woodland perennials and we were surprised that some tender perennials proved to be hardy in her garden.

A diverse collection of shade-loving perennials complement the mossy paths.

A diverse collection of shade-loving perennials complement the mossy paths.

Moss creeps between the slate stepping stones.

Moss creeps between the slate stepping stones.

We learned that moss gardens are NOT zero-maintenance gardens, but that they require a different type of maintenance than a traditional garden.  Norie taught us that “with grass you mow, with moss you blow.”  Moss cannot survive under a thick layer of leaf litter, so keeping the debris cleared with a leaf blower is essential.  Moss also likes to be damp.  If it dries out too much, it will turn brown, so watering with sprinklers is necessary in times of drought.  As with any garden, weeding is also necessary.  Norie told us that the beauty of moss gardens is that you can selectively leave “volunteers” that are growing up through the moss.  If it were a lawn, some of her favorite volunteer perennials such a Aquilegia (columbine) and ferns would have been mown down.  In her garden, they can live in happy harmony with the moss.

Norie Burnet explains maintenance tasks in a moss garden with LGBG horticulture staff.

Norie Burnet explains maintenance tasks in a moss garden with LGBG horticulture staff.

Norie Burnet selectively allows "volunteers" such as this patch of ferns to live amongst the mossy "lawns."

Norie Burnet selectively allows “volunteers” such as this patch of ferns to live amongst the mossy “lawns.”

While a few of the shady corners of Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden have moss naturally occurring, Norie definitely gave us all the inspiration to go a step further.  Now that we know some of the essential maintenance tasks required to keep a moss garden healthy, we look forward to nurturing our native mosses.  Keep an eye out in the future areas that might be transformed into mossy oases!

Shades of green and varying textures create beauty and interest  in the garden.

Shades of green and varying textures create beauty and interest in the garden.

 

A shady path in Norie Burnet's moss garden, Eden Woods.

A shady path in Norie Burnet’s moss garden, Eden Woods.

Books about moss gardening and moss identification are available for purchase in the Garden Shop or can be viewed in  the Lora Robins Library — Members can also check these books out.

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One Response to “Eden Woods: Adventures in Moss Gardening”

  1. […] developed close to an acre of native mosses around her residence, which is named Eden Woods (we’ve written about our staff field trips there on this blog before). She cultivated different “garden rooms” that range from a Spring Pool Garden with moss-covered […]

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