Home & Design

Green Acre #472: Of Fungi, Moss, and . . . Other Things

A California garden designed by Inner Gardens, as seen in the May-June 2024 issue of Veranda magazine.

By Stephanie Cavanaugh

I WAS HAVING my coffee on the back porch this morning with Goldie and Cooper, my budgies, while leafing through the latest issue of Veranda magazine and a special feature on the world’s most beautiful gardens, when my eye fell on a giant purple-capped toadstool, a virtual umbrella over a pair of artsy (meaning dreadfully uncomfortable-looking) chairs, which were set near the swimming pool, surrounded by a tamed jungle of palms and jasmine, wisteria, wild orchids, philodendron, schefflera, monstera, 15-foot tree ferns, and something called Evansii* that I will have to look up.  

Underneath the giant purple-capped toadstool, which may or may not be “folk art,” the text is unclear, are two more slightly smaller toadstools, with bright orange caps, that I think, for certain, are real.  I don’t know why I think this, so don’t bother to ask. But they called them all “giant Belgian toadstools” in the caption. 

The garden is in southern California, where everything grows to fabulous size, so I don’t question the ridiculous scale, nor am I tempted to replicate any of it. For one thing, there’s my tragic lack of a pool. Obviously, I’d need a pool . . . 

Ginkgo Gardens, in Washington DC’s Capitol Hill neighborhood, has a lot of strange and wonderful plants. If anyone would know about giant Belgian toadstools, it would be they. 

Have you ever heard of a giant Belgian toadstool? I asked the lovely, and most helpful, young lady behind the counter. 

Is that a plant? she asked, whipping around to her computer to check. It’s a fungus! she  said, then cheerfully announced, as if she’d dodged a bullet: We don’t carry fungi.

Oh. Okay, I said, figuring I’d take this up elsewhere. 

Now don’t get whiplash, but as I was already in the shop, I moved on to another of my top questions. How do you grow moss on a pot?

(See, the other day I saw a magnificent flower arrangement set in a moss-covered urn. Damned if I know where I saw it—sometimes things just fly by, never to be seen again. Have you noticed that?) 

The helpful young lady reached behind her and proudly swung forth a bag of Mossify, Growable Moss for Sun.  Amazing, I’m thinking, it’s right there. They had quite a stock of it too. I hadn’t known that mossifying was such a hot trend.

This bag is for sun; there are bags below the counter for shady spots, she said. But, she added, leaning conspiratorially on the counter, You can just go foraging for moss, break it up, and toss it in a blender with buttermilk or yogurt and paint it wherever you want to cultivate moss. 

I stepped back, looked down at the bags and, I have to say, yelled, $47? Some customer hilarity ensued, like I’d provided the afternoon’s entertainment. 

I did suggest foraging, she said with a grin

Thank you, I said. I will. Checking the stuff out on line I found that Terrain sells Mossify for $58, so $47 is a relative bargain. 

Now to find a patch of forageable moss and some buttermilk. 

Speaking of ridiculous prices—I’m so happy to have found a way to wedge this in— the Financial Times publishes a home section, which is quite enjoyable for its over-the-topness. To wit:

The House of Today, a nonprofit organization based in Lebanon, says it is committed to cultivating a sustainable design ecosystem . . . that transcends international borders.  In this case, candles designed by artists and created by patients with disabilities to support Beit Chabob Hospital, which teaches them craft skills. 

The candles are both strange-looking and double-take costly. 

The “Flaws” candle, by Sayar & Garibeh, from House of Today in Lebanon.

Flaws, for instance, consists of four balls of turquoise-colored wax, set one atop the other, diminishing in size. It weighs 3.3 pounds, is covered with plague-like pustules, and will set you back $400. It’s the least expensive candle in the collection.  

The “Nothing Is Forever” candle by Flavie Audi, from House of Today in Lebanon.

At the top end, Nothing Is Forever looks like a commingled swirl of vanilla and strawberry soft ice cream, weighs 8.8 pounds, and costs $610. 

Prices do not include shipping from Lebanon or customs. 

Said one of the artists, A candle, once lit, enhances the visual as well as the emotional experience.  

I can just imagine my eyes and emotions if someone took a match to my $610 candle.


*Says Wikipedia: Cladonia evansii, known as Evans’ deer moss or Evans’ reindeer moss, is a lichen in the family Cladoniaceae. I wonder if it likes buttermilk.

3 thoughts on “Green Acre #472: Of Fungi, Moss, and . . . Other Things

  1. Carol says:

    I agree with Maggie! I am awaiting a friend at a restaurant, me laughing out loud while eating hummus!!!

  2. patricia spirer says:

    Loved it!

  3. Maggie Hall says:

    Don’t know where to start – such a belter of a piece. Now I’ve stopped laughing and uttering “no way!” I have a fantasy: I want a giant candle modeled like a Belgian mushroom covered in buttermilk moss!
    As for the young woman in Gingko’s…..because of her splendid and refreshing attitude make her shop assistant of the year.

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