Grow Some Graffiti
December 26, 2014
You certainly can’t eat moss, though some plants called ‘moss’ from the Lychin family are edible. However, you can do some really cool vertical gardening that offers the opportunity to express yourself in words or artistry. And growing moss is really easy, it’s a super low maintenance plant that needs very little sunlight and minimal water. In fact, moss can live just on the humidity in the air in some climates.
Say hello to moss graffiti. You can create anything from signs to silhouettes – even scenic interludes. I’ve seen newly installed landscape boulders and patios or walkways ‘aged’ with freshly applied moss, but this is totally different. On the blank walls in an urban environment, living graffiti adds greenery and life to a cold, stark surface. It’s becoming popular around the world, and could be useful not just on walls, but on pavements too.
Once your artwork is growing, it will need a trim periodically to stop the moss from creeping past the boundaries of the original design and losing it’s original shape and and spatial balance. You’ll want a really short moss too, like velvet, because the hairier it is, the amount of control you have in maintaining your handiwork decreases. Before you import a moss from beyond the neighborhood, look for some growing nearby your chosen graffiti spot, because foreign moss might not be suited to the habitat where you are.
Great examples of super green graffiti:
How to get started…
- a big handful of freshly harvested moss
- 2 cups of buttermilk
- 1/2 teaspoon of sugar
- a blender
- a paintbrush
- plastic tub with air tight lid
If you’re doing something small, cut the recipe in half. Naturally the larger the design, the more of the moss slurry you will need as paint… more moss, and more buttermilk. If you find you’re on a roll and need more – go get more moss. Also, keep in mind the size of the parts of your creation, and get paintbrushes that will make it the least hassle to paint the moss slurry on the wall or walk. You might need several sizes of brushes for your project.
Wash all the soil you can off of the moss, and tear it into small chunks. Toss your bits into in the blender with a little buttermilk, the sugar, and puree it. Slowly add the rest of the milk a little at a time and blend well. Then pour the stuff in the pitcher into a recycled plastic butter tub or something like that with a tight fitting lid so your slurry stays full of moisture. There are other recipes that tell you to add water and then corn syrup to thicken it back up. You don’t need to do that. The age-old recipe for moss slurry is simple buttermilk. Not sure about those that say yogurt works with beer added to thin it a bit, if you try this, be sure you get all natural yogurt. Yeah, the expensive all natural stuff, and make it plain – no fruit. Cheap yogurt has additives in it that probably won’t help you grow great graffiti.
What should you paint with this living medium? Make it surprising, something that will give people pause to think, a spot of humor, or simply something that will beautify the neighborhood. If you’re not a gifted artist, you can always trace out the pattern with pencil or marker on the wall. Sketch something freehand, and fill it in with the moss paint. Note that the more moss you have the faster the design will fill in, but even if you’ve thinned it out quite a bit with buttermilk, eventually it will look like you intended it too. The new growth will generate more spores.
It won’t take long before green starts appearing. All it takes is a few spores, and moss is born. Take care to chose a north or east facing wall, because south and west exposure is not a moss’ friend. They dwell in the shade to part shade environment. If you have a long dry spell, a little misting with a spray bottle will help the moss weather the drought. Buy some sharp shears for keeping it clipped and looking smart. It’s kind of like a topiary and will only look great with a little attention now and then.
The best time to apply your moss graffiti is spring or fall. So pick out your wall, you’ve got time to plan this out really well and get your pattern worked out. When spring comes, go forth and make the city a greener place to be 🙂
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