Weeds, Mossy Paths, and Bliss

Looking through the woodland on a Summer's day

Looking through the woodland on a Summer's day

Weeds.  Ugh.  And yet.

Years ago, I went on a landscape tour to Richmond with the Landscape Designers Group to which I belong.  It was led by a designer who took us by his aunt’s house.  She had the most glorious mossy pathways–thick and spongy–and I was moss-green with envy!  “I must have those paths!”, I thought (vowed!).  This tour fell around the time I was first developing my garden here at Woodland Cottage, oh, maybe 15 years ago.  Perfect timing.  (Isn’t it funny how the answers often fall right into your lap, if only your antennae are up and you are attuned?  I have a secret:  it’s a tool that many designers use.)

I’d read all the prescriptions for creating mossy paths:  buttermilk and moss mixture, lay sheets of moss, etc. etc.  The truth is, I did nothing.  I marked and cleared my meandering pathways, lined them with green Liriope, kept them weeded and raked, and just went on living.  Over time, the moss began to grow on its own.  I do know that moss grows well on compacted (the soil on my pathways compacts from my walking on them), moist, shady soil.  I have all the above.  I will say that the amount of moss skyrocketed after I got my sprinkler system and the moisture was suddenly applied evenly and regularly, as opposed to waiting on Nature and yours truly to supply it.

Our host with the mossy paths in Richmond (going back to that) told us that we must keep them cleared of debris and weeds.  She had a blower and used a yardman to accomplish these tasks–I don’t have a blower and I am the yardman, so I rake softly, with a soft, lawn rake (FYI, the thin-tined metal works better on moss than those wooden/wicker/whatever-they-are-made-of ones, IMHO), and hand-weed.

Ugh.

I have prodigious amounts of Cardinal Flower (Lobelia cardinalis) and Toadlily (Tricyrtis hirta) in my woodland.  I love them both, but I didn’t realize how prolific they would get in my garden (I don’t want to say invasive, because they are desired, but yeah, you could say that).  Last year, I had thousands of both in my pathways.  It was, for the Cardinal Flowers and Toadlilies, a good year.  And Cardinal Flowers, I learned, have a stubborn tap root, to boot.  Snap off the top without getting the root, and the darn things leaf out again.  And pull up the baby Toadlilies, and you get a big chunk of moss, too.  Not good for the moss, on either count.

Anyway, the weeding became a monumental bore/chore, especially with the high heat we had in the Mid-Atlantic last summer.  I’d start early, or wait until late evening to weed, but by the time I had to quit, I had weeded maybe two square feet.  It was that bad.

I decided, finally, to spray the weeds with Roundup (curses! horrors!).  I know, I know…have at it–I am guilty as charged.  But here’s something to know about me:  I will spray chemicals as a LAST resort.  I’m a busy guy, and I don’t always have time to pull every weed and pick off every bug.  When they get way ahead of me, I have to make a decision whether or not to spray.  And–rarely, I must add–I do choose to spray.  In this case, I used a backpack sprayer with a wand so that I could very specifically (and painstakingly) target each weed/patch of weeds.  It took me forever, and I did it again 10 days later–and I did lose some moss–but I can tell you, a year later, that I am so glad I did.  Because I weeded all my mossy pathways in about three hours yesterday.  A miracle.

Two things about me and weeding:  I dread it, and then I love it.  True, today I am intimately involved with Mr. Bengay and Alleve for my lower back (at age 54 the lower back does get stiff, even if I am in great shape).  I dread it because of the monotony.  Then I love it for the same reason because it’s that very monotony that allows my brain to stop its craziness, focus on one thing, then relax and drift.  I’m telling you, I solved many design quandaries and got more ideas during those three hours yesterday.  I got quiet, listened, and the answers came.

Gardening, for me, is like that.  Sometimes, when I am in the thick of trying to figure out the answers, I just open the door and take a turn in my garden.  My head clears; the answers come.

And what a sense of accomplishment to look out on the paths and see moss, and only moss.  In my mind, I can see the moss expanding already into the voids opened by my weeding.

Happy Father’s Day and Happy Gardening.

Posted under Garden maintenance, Random garden thoughts, The Summer Garden

This post was written by Jeff Minnich on June 17, 2012

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Late Spring Newsletter is Up…

Hydrangea Time!

Hydrangea Time!

…in the news section of my website.  Here’s the link:  http://www.minnichgardendesign.com/news.html

Enjoy!

Posted under Newletters, The Spring Garden

This post was written by Jeff Minnich on June 6, 2012

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