What is a Moss Wall?
Almost entrancing as the Eiffel Tower is the Musée du Quai Branly on Paris’ Left Bank. The museum houses archaeological treasures from ancient civilizations from Africa, Asia, the Near East, Oceania, and the Americas. Despite that, perhaps the most intriguing asset is the museum's exterior. The museum boasts one of the most famous vertical gardens or living walls created by Patrick Blanc. His hydroponic “Le Mur Vegetal” system and work helped spur the recent obsession with moss walls, thanks to the prevalence of Blanc’s work photographed the world over. If you're emulating the famous French botanist’s work to create a moss wall of your own, here, we break down all you'll need to achieve the look.
What is a Moss Wall?
A moss wall is classified as a type of living wall, such as the kind Blanc’s renowned for creating, though it's not technically alive. More than just moss, these green walls contain various types of preserved natural materials beyond moss. Driftwood, dried pods and mushrooms, bark, and other preserved plants can be components of moss walls. Preserving is possible through eco-friendly, safe glycerin and non-toxic resin that retains their shape for years. However, harvesting wild moss or lichen isn’t recommended as it can negatively affect the environment.
Moss Walls or Living Walls? What's the difference?
When considering what type of plant wall decor you desire, it’s essential to know the differences. The main one surrounds the nature of plants versus moss. To clarify, unlike other plants, moss does not have a vascular tissue that transports water and nutrients. They lack roots, stems, and flowers and use a rhizoid structure to attach themselves to earth or other matter. Plants, on the other hand, have all of the above. In general, moss does not require the same irrigation system needed for a living wall to host a whole range of plants and flowers. Though a living wall uses a hydroponic irrigation system, a moss wall doesn’t need this additional apparatus.
According to Laurence Thiessen, owner of L’Oasis Floral Design in New York catering to fashion, beauty, and celebrity events whose clients have included Dior, Givenchy, Valentino, and The Soho House, it is possible to use unpreserved moss. “We did build a gorgeous moss wall from fresh live moss, but it was only for a 2-day event. This approach is only possible if you don’t plan to keep it,” she explains.
Things to Consider When Creating a Moss Wall
Although relatively easier to create and maintain than their full living wall counterparts, there are some things to be aware of when creating a moss wall. These walls are possible both indoors and out. But outdoor elements can cause some issues. Thiessen says humidity, heat, and sunlight are the culprits.
First, if you are putting one outside, it must be out of direct sunlight to avoid being scorched. Similarly, moss walls don’t perform well in dry places; they require the same air humidity people do, 40 to 50 percent. Heating and air conditioning ducts are also detrimental as they produce blasts of hot or cold dry air. “Keep it away from these things and in moist air if you want to preserve its beautiful green color and look,” she says. It’s also best to avoid placing them where rain or water can splash them as it may cause the preserved colors to run. Sometimes, the finishing touch is some decorative balcony furniture.
What Are Some Advantages to Moss Walls?
As long as you avoid the issues mentioned above, moss walls can be pleasant and decorative additions to decor, inside or out. Moss walls tend to thrive indoors, requiring neither light nor water, therefore making them a carefree alternative to other living walls. When using indoors, a surprising benefit is sound attenuation, aka sound absorption. This bonus follows one of the tenets of biophilic design to reconnect humans with nature by fulfilling a natural analog. Space-wise, they also don’t require much, only protruding from walls usually 2-4 inches and lightweight since they don’t require irrigation.
But Thiessen says they can also bring a sense of well-being to your space. ”Besides the moss wall’s beauty, green is a great way to reduce stress, increase focus and give a feeling of peace,” she maintains. “Moss is a wonderful plant that cleans the air after being preserved and absorbs carbon dioxide and pollutants from the air, significantly improving indoor air quality.”
How to Maintain and Treat A Moss Wall
These walls also appeal to non-green thumbs. They don’t harbor pollen or molds though it's essential to keep them free of dust. Thiessen recommends using a can of compressed air for this task. Additionally, if it does start to look dry, she suggests using a humidifier to replenish moisture. There is no need for trimming or feeding, of course, just proper humidity levels. It is best to have it inspected yearly - especially if it is a large wall - to make sure it stays attached. Otherwise, you may find chunks of it falling to the floor or ground. Likewise, try to keep pets or small children from pulling or picking at walls which would cause deterioration.
How Moss Walls Become Art
Thiessen, like Blanc and his fans, considers living and moss walls as works of art. The latter can be installed almost anywhere, infusing spaces with tropical color. Think living room, entrance hall, bedroom, meditation corner, office space, patio, kitchen, and any place a Boho-look works. She says another advantage of these beautiful home accents is the design capabilities. “You can have any design you want since the moss can be cut and even dyed to fit any piece, and it doesn’t require watering or soil,” she says.
Professionals use a mix of different moss to give an interesting and textured look, such as pillow moss, sheet moss, caribou moss, and reindeer moss, which comes in various shades of green. Equally advantageous is the lightweight nature that allows for metal or wood frames in multiple shapes. Care to spell out your family name or business name? Try a moss wall.