Why We Love Moss (I)

Low-Profile, High-Impact Moss Enlivens the Backyard in Winter

By Michael Leach

The other evergreens get all the attention. It’s not surprising. From spruces to firs to boxwood most evergreens are big, in-your-face plants. Only in their youngest years might they be overlooked in the winter scene.

Little wonder that moss (and lichens to an extent) are the unsung evergreens. Besides spring green, they add various shades, including rust, ochre and blue-gray, to my landscape.  Seemingly as inconsequential as a pinch of nutmeg, theirs is a welcome dash of piquancy bringing vibrancy to this dreary season.

I’ve always been partial to moss. For one thing, this plant is pet-able. While not quite as inviting as lamb’s ear, the velvety  surface is hard to resist. Moss appeals, too, because it instantly adds a sense of permanence and venerable elegance to whatever it chooses to grow on. This is especially useful in the landscape surrounding the family home place, a small Victorian farmhouse.

Moss grows on many surfaces in my rather shady garden. Besides the damp and dim places in the lawn, where even weeds are reluctant to take hold, moss appears on stones, brick pavements, tree trunks, driveway gravel, old concrete walls and  a section of garage roof.

(Perhaps something should be done about the roof, as the growth no doubt holds dampness against the shingles)

However, it wasn’t until a stroll through my garden on a mild winter day that I began to appreciate moss for its winter interest. Here and there were welcome signs of life. Tufts and miniature “lawns”  of sprightly moss glowed in the sun.


The low stone wall wears a light coat of a gray-blue lichen, nature’s version of the verdigris found on old copper roofs. Such an elegant way to soften the stones and add subtle color.



Moss is a “mortar” that gives the brick walk a vintage look. (Caution is a must when walking on wet bricks and moss).



If there’s sufficient moisture, moss and lichens grow on the south side of trees, too.



A hitching ring on the old concrete horse watering trough rests atop a soft carpet of moss.


A moss “lawn” adds a touch of antiquity to the crumbling concrete walls of a late 19th century watering trough. The greenery took up residence a few years ago.



Why moss grows where it does is a mystery to me. Like most other volunteers in the garden, I allow it to live where it likes. (Maybe the stone on the left rolls.)


Learn more about mosses:


Moss sources:



4 responses to “Why We Love Moss (I)

  1. dianajlockwood

    Aah, moss! An unsung garden hero. And my kingdom for a horse trough. An antique one, like yours. Yes, I am breaking a commandment by coveting your trough.

    • Michael Leach

      Thank for your praise of the post. I must admit, the trough is a favorite landscape feature here — and pet-able with the moss.

  2. Barbara Segall

    Cool dude that moss! Lovely thoughtful words and you offer a way to appreciate a different aspect of your garden. Thanks!

    • Michael Leach

      Thanks, Barbara, for your kind words. Sometimes it’s simply a matter of viewing the familiar in a new light, in this case the low angle of a winter’s day.

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