Vertical Moss Garden DIY

Since moving into our new apartment I find myself in overdrive trying to make the place feel like home. I love decorating and since quarantine I have more than enough time to devote to my obsession with DIY home decor. 

I’ve never had an open concept space before. The living room, dining area and kitchen are all essentially one large room with lots of windows. But I really needed to define the spaces. I’m not exactly an “open concept” kind of person. I know it’s blasphemy. Everyone wants an open concept living space, but to me there’s something more charming and classic about separate rooms (It’s fine, you can fight me on this). 

Usually in an open concept space you’d define each area with furniture; a couch, a dining table, a kitchen island etc. But, we STILL haven’t received the couch we purchased in JUNE or the dining table for that matter (I blame Covid). So, I went about painting the “rooms” to personalize the individual areas of the open concept space. That post is still to come, I promise. 

After color blocking the walls in the living room, my partner and I started to hang art and frames on the walls. One of the things we already had was this really interesting wooden disc shelf thing. We bought it at a giant thrift store warehouse in Greensboro. It caught my eye because it had this modern feel to it but the wood element gave it an old charm and I knew I had to have it. So $30 later it was mine. 

After bringing it home though I looked at this odd wall hanging thing with sawed off half-bowls for shelves and thought, “What the hell is this used for?” In my vision for it I pictured it as a planter with maybe string-of-pearl plants cascading from it. Upon further inspection of the piece I realized the shelf-bowls were a little too shallow to keep a plant alive in, then there was the issue of drainage and wood warping if it gets wet too often. It also needed a little love, one of the shelves wasn’t fully attached and I had to nail it in place which meant there was a seam where it would definitely drip from if I used it as a planter. So it hung on our wall empty, collecting dust. Everytime I walked by it though it pained me to see this cool piece of wall art not being utilized for anything. 

Here’s the wall shelf before I started the project. Disregard the mess, we’re still organizing! That’s Miss Wynona glaring at the camera

The “Bowl” of the shelf before I finished. There was no way I was getting a live plant in here

I don’t know if it was the Philly city energy or just a random stroke of genius but after hanging it in our new apartment it hit me: I’m turning it into a moss garden! 

One of the awesome things about a vertical moss garden is how low maintenance it is. The moss is preserved not alive which, is nice considering I hate the look of fake plants. It eliminates the need for soil and watering while still creating a natural plant element in your space. There’s no need to worry about it wilting and turning brown, all it needs is a little misting of water every now and then to avoid fading. 

It was a fairly easy project, although I’m a perfectionist with these things so it did take me some time to get it just right. 

You’ll need a few simple materials to get started. 

Preserved Moss, Utility knife, Glue Gun, Floral Foam Block
  • Something to attach the moss to. Honestly you could use anything that hangs well on a wall, an old picture frame with a backing would work just fine. Something like this would work great too if you like the circular aspect of the piece I used.
  • Preserved Moss. I bought two packages to get a little variation in color. A large pack of Reindeer Moss and a mixed bag of various kinds of moss. 
  • A hot glue gun. I mean everyone should have a hot glue gun. It’s kind of an essential household item in my opinion. But, if for some reason you don’t have one (again why?) I use the Chandler brand glue gun (I forked over the extra $2 because I love pink)
  • Styrofoam Floral Blocks These guys are perfect for sculpting into any shape you want and this pack of three for $7 is a great deal
  • A Paring knife or utility knife to carve and shape your blocks

Extra’s: 

  • Safety Goggles (the foam blocks make a lot of little particles when you cut into them so this is to keep little pieces from flying into your eyes)
  • Gloves. Now I wish I had used gloves for a few reasons. The first being that the moss stained my hands yellow. Like Highlighter yellow. Had I known this I would have made sure to wear gloves. The second reason is prevent yourself from being cut or burned. Right at the end of the project, I dropped a piece of moss I had just applied glue to and it fell right on my thumb. Now I have a blister. So don’t be dumb like me and wear gloves.
My Yellow Fingers

Once you have all your materials, plug in your glue gun and let it heat up. The Chandler model has a plastic tip to minimize the chance of burning yourself and it doesn’t really drip (Clearly that didn’t matter for me as I still burned myself). 

Take your foam blocks and start cutting them with the paring knife (or utility knife) to fit the wall decor piece you’re using. The foam blocks can be easily manipulated into any shape, and you can even mold them by pressing into them with your hands. I used them to add some height in the bowl/shelf so as not to pack moss into the base of the shelves. They also allowed me to create the appearance of hills and valleys to attach the moss to allowing for a more “planted” feel. This part doesn’t need to be perfect, in fact the more imperfect it is the more natural it will look in the end so be sure to create little divots and spaces you can stick the moss into.

Once you’re happy with the shape of your blocks, glue them down to the surface of your hanging wall piece. I recommend applying the glue directly to whatever you’re attaching it to first, not the blocks. I realized pretty fast that the blocks burned if I applied the glue directly to them.

Once the foam blocks are securely fastened to your wall piece it’s time to start getting the moss down. The reindeer moss comes in little lichen puffs. Bunch a piece with your fingers and apply the hot glue directly to the moss and then push it in place where you want it, just be careful. 

Now have fun with it! 

Cover the entire surface of the foam blocks making sure to fill in any gaps. One of the things I did to achieve a more “living plant feel” was glue some ends of the moss outside of the shelf area letting it spill over the edges. I liked the look of it being overgrown, like it was climbing off the shelf. 

Play with the colors and textures in the variety pack and place them in the little nooks and crannies of the foam blocks. Be sure to pack the moss tightly so it stays in place. 

It helped me to step back and look at it from a distance every now and then to make sure I wasn’t getting too wild in any one corner. Wipe away stray glue strands and dust away any flecks of moss or foam that might cover the piece. Be sure to save the rest of your moss. If you have any left over, it can be used to top the soil in other planters throughout your home and adds a really nice touch to your pots. 

And you’re done! Hang that baby on your wall and admire the work you’ve done! 

I’m very happy with the way this turned out and It makes me want to make more moss monsters soon! Stay tuned for more DIY creations by yours truly. 

So Pretty!

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2 comments

  1. All this looks amazing! It’s so colorful and bright. I love the pictures and it is easy to follow. I love the moss garden. I will definitely have to try it!

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