There is simply nothing like spring here on the peninsula. It comes early in this moderate climate and May brings a rollicking parade of colors that excite the senses like the surprise of a flock of wild macaws landing in the yard.
Azaleas and rhododendrons burst open like ruffled fireworks, nubby blossoms of California lilacs hang above yards and patios in thick blue nebulas, sweetening the air with the light scent of vanilla. Graceful fountains of ornamental grasses pour from the earth. The stunning blossoms of the Golden chain drip from branches like long dollops of honey or the painting of an exotic tree left in the rain – yellow streaks running down the canvas. Sometimes it reminds me of a delicate crocheted afagan artistically draped for show.
My husband and I worked long hours to create our Shangri-La when we bought our property ten years ago. Every spring as I look out over the explosion of color, I think, “It can’t possibly get any more beautiful than this!” yet every year it seems to take that challenge and win again.
After about five years on our property, we gave up trying to keep the moss out of everything. We had originally wanted our garden to be part of the existing landscape, to seem natural, tucked in among the sword ferns, salal and huckleberry, yet we had lofty ideals about how “tidy” that could be. Having come from drier climates, we had no idea how much of a battle there would be with moss in the garden.
I actually love moss, to me it’s one of the most enchanting things about living here. The challenge is, it grows EVERYWHERE. There are varieties of moss that take over the ground, there are others that crawl up tree trunks, some drop from the sky, blown about by wind or carried by birds to establish themselves in the branches of trees. It is like an expanding furry green slug, creeping slowly, steadily across every outdoor space, over every unattended structure. It grows in the lawn, it grows on the roof, it grows over cement, over stone, over wood, over metal.
We eventually realized that surrender was the only answer. Instead of fighting it, we chose to just let it become a lovely part of our landscape, a soft green carpet, only removing it where it might choke out ornamental trees or shrubs.
The “east lawn” (I know, it sounds like the White House, but we have three and a half acres of landscaped yard, areas need identifiers!) is now mostly moss. The area we call “The oriental garden” is now mostly moss. The understory of the cedar grove on the west side of the house we have left to become a magical mossy realm.
It has been an interesting journey surrendering my ideas of the “perfect” garden in favor of a different kind of beauty. It takes a lot less effort to go with the flow. Nature knows how to create her own whimsical charm. Who am I to try to make her do anything else?
Mossy Whispers: Let the thick moss grow like a soft blanket over the demands you put on yourself today. Go with the flow. Give yourself and others permission to be beautifully imperfect. That’s where unexpected magic happens.