Beautify your Garden Landscape with Moss and Lichen

There are many ways to add this fascinating accent to your garden landscape.

Credit: Christina Symons

A wooden Buddha statue boasts a mossy patina.

From forest paths to formal gardens, sculpted objects to speckled pots, there are many ways to add moss as a fascinating accent to your garden

Don’t we all just love moss? Firm, yet fragile, moist and soft, deep-chartreuse mosses and dusky blue-green lichens add a sense of lushness and character to any B.C. garden. Fall is the perfect time to add the beauty of moss to your landscape, when moisture is high and cool weather provides optimum conditions for it to take off.

Making moss

First, collect a few handfuls of local moss (from your backyard) and allow it to dry for a week or so inside. Next, chop the dried moss finely until you have 250 mL (1 cup) of material. Using an old blender (pick one up from a thrift store), blend the chopped moss with 500 mL (2 cups) of regular buttermilk.

With a paintbrush, brush the moss-milk concoction onto selected objects (best made from stone, wood or leather) wherever you would like moss to appear. Place the objects in a shady, moist spot outside and in two to four weeks you should see moss develop. To speed things up, wrap your treated object in clear plastic. And if you need to fill in any gaps, affix bits of fresh moss using a hot glue gun.

Grow moss on leather bootsThese old leather boots were made for moss!

hanging moss garden
A cool moss orb is fashioned from two shallow metal ornaments wired together with moss sheets sandwiched in between.

Growing moss

Cultivating a sheet of moss is easy. Simply collect a small strip of moss (from your backyard), removing it carefully to keep the soil intact. Clear a place (expose the soil) in a similar location that is flat, shaded and moist. Place your moss soil-side down on the new patch. Water and wait. In a few months growth will fill out and provide you with a small blanket of mossy material.

To make a hanging moss garden, sandwich sheets of moss between two shallow metal mesh ornaments (as shown) or craft your own ornaments using woven wire such as chicken wire. Water your new sculpture well and keep it moist. Hang it in a shady location.

Loving lichen

Lichen is soft and powdery and often grows on local trees. If you like the look, you can encourage lichen to grow on a variety of materials including metal (especially if the metal is old and rusty already). First, lift some lichen by rubbing lichen-rich tree bark gently with a rag. Transfer the lichen to your chosen object by pressing the rag onto the surface. Set the treated object in a moist, shady place and the lichen should start growing within several weeks. If not, simply reapply until you achieve the desired effect.

Metal objects are good hosts for lichen
Rusty and small metal objects are good hosts for lichen.