The nature of things
LOVERS of perfect bowling-green lawns despise it, but, to romantic souls, moss is a thing of beauty and celebration. Now, in these cooler and wetter months, mosses’ rich store of vibrant greens come to the fore, looking fresh among the morbidity of fallen leaves and bare branches.
Under the aesthetic principles of Japanese gardening, moss is venerated, conveying a sense of calm, age and stillness to the overall garden picture. Those qualities also apply in the broader landscape: a section of moss-draped dry-stone walling can look as if it has been there forever. The big old oak tree at the wayside, laden with moss along its branches, looks the picture of patient stillness, although traffic may race past close by.
Folklore tells us that, without a compass, we can find north by looking for the mossiest side of a tree trunk. Although this is often true—as the sunless north side suits them—mosses flourish on the dampest side, which could be facing other directions, particularly if the tree is on a steep slope or beside water.
Nearly 800 species of moss grow in the UK. Seen close to, they can be surprisingly varied.