Gangtok: Sikkim has got its first moss garden at the Jawaharlal Nehru Botanical Garden in Rumtek, courtesy a Briton who put in efforts to create the facility.
Robert Pompey worked for 15 months to create the unique garden after volunteering his services to the Department of Forest, Environment and Wildlife Management after arriving in the state in January, 2011.
The garden is built around a 20m x 20m rock graphic phyllite outcrop and has an area of 40 m square. It contains no man-made materials and stones are used to create paths.
The steps are secured by weight and clay alone and path walls are built from discarded vegetation and secured by live vegetation roots.
The mosses (Bryopsida and Lycopodiopsida spp) have been collected mostly from within or around the botanical garden.
Other seedless plants like Marchantiomorpha (liverworts), Anthocerotophyta (Hormworts), Polypodiospida (ferns etc) and some local grasses (Poaceae) and orchids (Orchidaceae) also feature in the garden.
The use of mosses to create gardens has been a Japanese tradition since the feudal era (12th -19th centuries).
Even a thousand years ago, Zen Buddhist monks wrote of
the mosses in their temple gardens. In modern-day Japan, private homes, restaurants, and shopkeepers often maintain small moss gardens, especially where they can be viewed from within the building.
Moss gardens are known for their serenity, emphasising simple shades of green with only occasional colour from shrubs or other flowers. Mosses are used to miniaturise the landscape, giving the feeling of distance.
In Japanese culture, a green garden, unlike ephemeral flowers, symbolises long life and offers a place for relaxation and contemplation.
In sharp contrast to the myriad colours and shapes in a traditional American or European garden, the moss garden allures with its subtle shades of green, accented here and there with a rock, a bamboo fountain, or perhaps an occasional small flowering shrub.