February’s member meeting focused on preparing our trees and pots for display, and Jay MacDonald has an opinion or two about how best to do it. There were many trees from Jay’s collection available to showcase different mossing techniques. Jay is partial to a silvery moss he collects on the golf courses of Arizona; he calls it Super Silver. This moss is ideal, because it likes sun, unlike the prevalent bright green variety around here that pops out in spring only to dry out when it gets warm. There is a local variety that is more silver but harder to find. Look in places that get both regular water and sunlight.
The first approach Jay demonstrated that evening on a crabapple did not cover the entire soil surface with moss. The moss was concentrated around the nebari. The rest of the soil surface he covered with a top dressing made of black lava. The black lava made the color of the moss bounce, especially when it was wet. Jay was very clear that the appearance of akadama, pumice and lava is ugly and must be covered with moss and/or top dressing.
The second demonstration was on my Japanese black pine. Jay first placed larger pieces of moss on the soil surface and then filled in with smaller and smaller pieces of moss of different shapes, thickness and color until the entire soil surface was covered. The resulting lumpy, bumpy, mosaic pattern is what Jay calls coast-to-coast lunar. Jay trimmed the moss so that there were no gaps between the pieces and no muddy edges. He tucked the moss down at the edges where it met the pot.
Jay uses two types of top dressing; one is pure black lava and the other is a mix of Akadama and black lava. To make the top dressing, Jay uses the dust that remains at the end of the soil sifting process. It is sifted again with a finer wire mesh like a flour sifter. This removes the finest dust and leaves small particles suitable for top dressing.
The last step for both demonstrations was polishing the pot. Jay sprayed Liquid Gold, an oil-based furniture polish, onto a rag and then wiped down each pot. The polish is a little shiny after it is first applied so try to polish your unglazed pots at least a few days before a show so the glare wears off. You can apply it to glazed pots as well, but do this a couple of weeks ahead of time.
Both moss and the top dressing can ultimately lead to clogged soil. Like food, sun and water, our trees need air to get to their roots. After showing your tree, remove the moss. You can put it on a tree that doesn’t mind staying moist. Don’t over-apply top dressing and consider scraping and replacing the top of the soil after a show.