Clearing the site leads to discoveries
The evolution of my moss garden was gradual. I had already designed and built several Japanese rock gardens, so I had that style in mind as I began taming this dense woodland of second-growth trees and bramble. I cut trees less than 2 inches in diameter flush to the ground. Because of my garden’s steep slope (15- to 20-degree grade), I left the roots intact to help fight erosion.
As I leveled off areas among the remaining trees for pedestrian use, I came to realize that our heavy clay-based soil was good for something after all—land sculpting. Using a shovel, I dug out sections of soil, trying not to duplicate any angles or curves, so that the contours would appear as naturalistic as possible. These sculpted land formations became the perfect way to design a landscape with dramatic natural features.
I used the high-pressure stream of water from a garden hose to remove any unnatural-looking marks left by the shovel, which also created a weathered look. I used the same method to carve small details such as undercuts and rivulets. Using pruning shears, I removed any small roots exposed by the process.
To create further interest, I uncovered roots of some of the larger trees, being careful not to damage them. The exposed roots soon developed an interesting form of bark for protection against the elements.
To continue the theme of a Japanese-inspired garden, I included an element of water. I simply ran an underground system of PVC pipe from my house to the highest point of the streambeds. I just turn it on whenever I want to enjoy the sound and sight of a slow-trickling stream.
The author maintains his moss garden by removing weeds a little at a time by hand.
Sculpt a natural look. The author’s dense clay soil made it possible to carve enduring natural features, such as small hills and valleys.
The author also carefully exposed the roots of some large trees. He used the high-pressure stream of a garden hose to soften any shovel marks.