In preparation for the USNBE, a fresh layer of moss was placed on the soil, and ideally, in a manner that makes it appear as though it was always there.
Three weeks before the show:
First, I fitted a screen to act as a barrier against birds and squirrels that sometimes dig around in the pots. Hopefully, it will also create a shaded, humid environment in which moss will thrive for a few weeks.
Next, scrape off the top layer of soil so the moss will lay flat, rather than appear mounded up:
Collecting moss can fun. Always get more than you think is necessary. Also find the short, fine, velvety varieties that can handle some sun. Shaggy, coarse moss never looks in-scale or tidy. I use an old kitchen “bench knife”, or dough cutter, which allows me to get under the moss and collect large sheets of it, with relatively little soil attached. More about the attached soil later.
Carefully remove excess soil from the bottom of the moss, but leave enough so it doesn’t fall apart.
Set larger pieces in front first. Since it’s important for the moss to blend in, and appear to have been there a long time, many seams and changes in texture are distracting, and should be avoided.
Bright moss is placed closer to the trunk, and different colors can be added for subtle effect, to highlight, shade, or suggest a continuation of nebari.
Press the moss firmly into the soil so it adheres and lays flat.
Moss should cover the entire soil surface, appear flat, and consistent throughout.
Next, grind some bark fines, mixed with a bit of moss (one of those times I’m glad my wife doesn’t read this!). Then dry and screen the ground mixture to obtain the finest possible top dressing:
These fines are to be used as a leveling agent to smooth out the seams between pieces of moss. A pinch here and there and brushed out carefully will further help create that “been there forever” feel.
Some golf tees were added around the edges to prevent the screen from sitting directly on the moss. Water with a fine spray. I mixed up some buttermilk and fish emulsion and sprayed the moss; an olfactory experience I do not recommend.
Once watered in and sprayed, the screen was placed:
Hopefully the moss will do well for the next few weeks through the show. After the show, it is critical to remove the moss and more importantly, the top layer of soil the moss was attached to. If left, it will settle to the bottom of the pot and create a muddy, septic mess.