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A Little Landscaped Desk

If you’re stuck inside all day – working at home, no less – it’s a great idea to get a breath of fresh air. Lately, all the stay-at-home orders and quarantines have driven us inside. When we get home, we’re confronted with everything else we have to do. Some of us have worked from home, and are confronted with the same unchanging space day after day. Some of us have just been spending more time indoors, and are kicking up more dust and clutter. Fake planters of plastic flowers aren’t the best at lifting your mood or processing the air, so I like to have a little patch of green to keep my spirits up.

Even more fun – plants grow and change. They’re the sort of green that never seems tacky. Plants fit with any style of furniture (provided they’re in the right pot!), and have a million styles of their own. The best ones even have a bit of personality.

I wanted to put together some plant pets. The plan is to bring these to my indoor desk when I want to cheer up. The rest of the time, I’ll set them in the windowsill. At night, since it’s cold out here, I’ll move these in from the windows at night. It’ll be like I’m walking some pet plants. To keep them to a good size, I used a few miniature wooden troughs left over from some daffodils in the past. They were just the right size to keep any plant from getting too out of hand.

It’s a bit corny, I know. The thing is – I used to have a pet kalanchoe living in a necklace. His name was Tom Hunt… long story. After a surprisingly long time as a good pet plant, he went through a particularly rough airport screening process. I think the repeated x-rays might have gotten to him. Then, I tried to grow a new pet plant – a marimo moss ball in a tiny necklace aquarium. It promptly broke in the first week when I was putting on a sweater, simply exploding through some means I don’t understand. Fast forward a few years, and I’ve decided it’s best to have pet plants that are a little sturdier, and are happy being homebodies.

Planters that had a bunch of dry and (not quite) dead daffodil bulbs.
Planters from Trader Joe’s that eventually had a bunch of dry and (not quite) dead daffodil bulbs.

Some Empty Planters

I had some empty planters left over from some old daffodil displays. They’ve been languishing outside, and I recently decided to put them all to use. One will be growing a batch of Billy Buttons – the most exciting of my three experiments. Another will be filled with all the (some how surviving) daffodil bulbs. The last one, which I’ll see the most of each weekday, will be filled with a lovably tactile Scotch Moss.

The planters have a wonderful two-piece plastic liner. The main dirt-holding portion has a few drainage holes in the bottom. Meanwhile, there’s a plastic catchpan fitting the inside. Normally, there wouldn’t be enough drainage the way it’s set up – the inner liner sits flush on the bottom tray, preventing the drainage holes from really draining. On top of that, the plant is forced to sit in water until it’s all reabsorbed. I went ahead and added in about 1/2″ of small rocks to the bottom liner, giving the top one some drainage space.

I picked up a six-pack of scotch moss from Home Depot during the week, along with some new potting dirt (for this and other projects). I’m thinking a single planter will only fit three, so I’ll have three on the side to plant somewhere outside.


What is Scotch Moss?

First off, it’s not actually moss.

Irish and Scotch moss are prostrate herbaceous evergreen perennials in the carnation family (Caryophyllaceae) that superficially resemble moss.

U of Wis

Prostrate, meaning the branches and stems are held on or just above the ground. In the case of this plant, it grows along the ground and reaches and inch or two in height. Herbaceous, meaning it doesn’t become woody (and will stay nice and springy, like real grass). Evergreen, so it’ll stay a happy green through all seasons – provided I don’t make any serious mistakes. Perennials are plants contrasting with annuals (which have a one-year life cycle) and biennials (which have a life cycle including a dormant winter phase). They seem to last forever, which is what I’m hoping for from this.


The Little Trough

Transplanting the little moss bundles was just about the easiest thing. I layered down enough loose dirt to keep the bundles up high enough to stay level in their new homes. I want there to be a bit of a lip, so that the moss eventually fills the trough like a fuzzy patch of earth hair. The bundles went right in, with the roots helping to hold the dirt together. Nothing fell apart, so there wasn’t any mess.

Once the moss was in the planter, I watered it down thoroughly to help the dirt compact and get rid of air pockets. It’s been about a week now, and the plant is thriving! I guess I expected it to explode with growth just as soon as it had some room, but all three bundles are largely unchanged. The remaining three are staying happy in their original store container. I’ll find a home for them soon.

Caring for the Moss

SunFull to Partial sun
WaterRegular water, moist soil
EarthNormal potting or garden soil with good drainage
FloweringTiny star-shaped flowers from late spring and through the growing season
PropagationSeeds or division – strips cut from the main plant and replanted
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