Thursday, May 30, 2013

There are functions for everything in bonsai, and mosses and lichens, used as ground covers, are no exception.

3ea9519aThere are functions for everything in bonsai, and mosses and lichens, used as ground covers, are no exception. They, of course, look great, covering the soil surface with 'green velvet' and helping to retain water while holding the soil in the container.

For people buying bonsai, the presence of moss is always a good sign. There are a great number of types of mosses and lichens and these can be mixed to provide a very effective result overall.

When not used for 'conservation' purposes, they should be planted sparingly so that their effect is natural, and they do not prevent water from reaching the soil.

There is a particular method of mossing a potted bonsai that will produce a smooth mat of deep green, with none of the lumpy growth that can be typical of piecing bits of moss together. With a sharp knife, slice the moss from its growing place, taking as little soil as possible.

Put this moss in a container lined with paper, and moisten it lightly (it should be moist, not wet). Remove most of the remaining soil from the moss using sharp scissors, pulling each little tuft away from the larger piece.

Prepare the surface soil in the bonsai pot by scratching it to roughen it up. With long handed tweezers, start inserting each tuft of moss close to, but not against, the trunk. Work out and away from the trunk until you have the look you want, then brush off most of the tufts.
 
Sprinkle dry soil over the moss and press it down with a flat spatula or small trowel (even your hand if you are careful). Mist gently two or three times and the soil will settle down between the tufts.

As an alternative to collecting moss and going through this somewhat time consuming process, you can use dried moss. Gather it, then place it in the shade for a few days until it is completely dry.

Put it through a fine strainer - a sieve will do - to crumble it. Mix the particles with some soil and spread it over the bonsai soil in the pot, making a thin, even layer. Press it down with a flat spatula or small trowel and gently mist continually until the soft green moss begins to grow.

Some people just scrape soil off the bottom of the moss and put this on the soil of the bonsai, but takes a much longer time to root and is a delight for small birds when looking for worms if left exposed.

Along with the growth of a healthy crop of moss often comes the appearance of a silver fungus around the soil line at the trunk of the tree. This is a sign of a healthily growing bonsai. The fungus develops as the moss takes hold, and it cannot be artificially implanted. In the heat of summer, moss may turn brown. Do not despair - it means the bonsai is getting the water it needs. As soon as cooler temperatures and higher humidity return, so will the 'green velvet'.

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