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The Washington Post proudly declared “Moss is no weed. It’s a brilliant addition to the garden.” Cultivated moss gardens are a phenomenon in Japan; they are referred to as “koke-dera” or moss temples. There is nothing more beautiful than a blanket of soft green moss to walk barefoot across or on which to lie. The small flowerless plants that grow in dense green clumps or mats, often in damp or shady locations, serve as wonderful bedding for bonsai trees and are usually used as an embellishment to cover soil when displaying a bonsai or orchid. There are many incomparable poets who wrote of flowers and mosses including John Keats who, in his 1819 Ode to a Nightingale, stated “Tender is the night, and haply the Queen-Moon is on her throne, cluster’d around by all her starry Fays; but here there is no light, save what from heaven is with the breezes blown through verdurous glooms and winding mossy ways.” The Romantic mention of moss conjures images of forgotten passageways in secret gardens and whimsical paths down which fairies fly. Ezra Pound’s 1956 The River-Merchant’s Wife: A Letter is based on the first of Chinese poet Li Po’s Two Letters from Chang-Kan; in the poem, he translates the story of two lovers who are separated by far distances and yearn for one another. Flora grows uncontrollably and illustrates the amount of time that has passed: “By the gate now, the moss is grown, the different mosses, too deep to clear them away!” In this case, the image of moss melancholy but also poignantly beautiful.

For more information on mosses and Japanese gardens, visit the Washington Post’s 2019 article at:


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