Mosses are hardly a new landscape element. After all, they were among the very first land plants to appear on Earth — meaning they’ve been around for 470 million or so years. Their use in the garden, however, is relatively novel. These days, it seems the bryophytes are on the brink of full-blown popularity.
That mosses are getting their day in the sun, err, shade makes perfect sense to Annie Martin, aka Mossin’ Annie. She’s long known about their beneficial uses — especially their ability to thrive in those troublesome shadowy spaces —and she turned her lifelong passion for the plants into a profession by opening Mountain Moss Enterprises in 2008. Since then, she’s ridden the wave of fresh interest: Martin released her book The Magical World of Moss Gardening just two years ago, yet publisher Timber Press is already on the third printing.
“Year-round green is possible,” says Martin, and that’s a big appeal for gardeners. “I can look at my garden now, and the only difference between here in June and what it will look like in December is that the ferns will have died back.”
While she believes being able to have bright color and texture even in winter is the main reason gardeners are increasingly choosing mosses, their environmental friendliness is appealing, too. The nonvascular plants have minimal water needs, require little maintenance and no mowing, are naturally immune to pests, help control erosion and reduce storm water runoff.
Martin’s Mossery does have seasons, though. The garden shop in Brevard reopened to the public in May and will remain open on Mondays through September, with a “moss-apalooza” celebration on Labor Day, Sept. 4.
“It is a production facility,” she notes, “so we’re only open for what I call Moss Mondays in the afternoon from 1 p.m. till 5 p.m.” The rest of the time, Martin and team are cultivating more than 5,000 square feet of mosses, including species that can survive in the sun. She’s also out speaking across the country and holding site consultations throughout the region, either providing “moss mentoring” to the DIY gardener or working her magic and creating turnkey moss scapes.
She knows she won’t persuade diehard grass lovers to go moss, and she’s OK with that. To them, she simply says, “Keep on mowing.” For those drawn to mosses, she feels it’s a bit of an otherworldly attraction. “They make your spirit smile … and that’s what any garden should do.”