Friday, March 30, 2012


Last weekend when I really wanted to be out gardening, it was a bit rainy, cool and muddy.  So I decided to get to work on "ex-terra" weeding of my Ginger Lilies (Hedychium coronarium).  I figured the damp muddiness would help cut down on the shock to the plants, and I would probably warm up quickly doing such a mucky labor-intensive job (I did).
I borrowed the fantastic descriptive phrase "ex-terra weeding" from this post by Carol on May Dreams Gardens.  And here is another excellent post on renovating an entire garden bed to get rid of a weed that spreads by runners, by Kathy Purdy of Cold Climate Gardening.  Good, so I don't have to go into a lot of painful details about the effort this took.  I really would prefer not to remember in too much detail.  I was so exhausted at the end of this that I wasn't even going to take photos.  The effort of walking a whole 20 steps to get into the house to get the camera was just too much.  Fortunately, my wonderful husband who came out to help me in the end took a couple of photos.  This one counts as sort of a before (in the distance) and after (closer to the camera) all in one, since I only did half the bed. I had developed tunnel vision and just wanted to get done so I didn't bother to stop pitching finished compost on the bed as he snapped the photo.
But the long and short of it is that I was putting up a fight for the Hedychium coronarium and some other good guys in this bed, but I had to severely inconvenience them for a bit to be able to get at their enemies, primarily Bermuda grass and English Ivy, and really give them the heave-ho.  The good guys are shown below.  Hopefully they aren't too embarrassed to be shown bare-root.  From top to bottom, they are Lily of the Valley (Convallaria majalis), Four O'Clock (Mirabilis jalapa), Ginger Lilies (Hedychium coronarium), and garlic chives (Allium tuberosum).  They are all a bit thuggish in their own way, but these are definitely the good guys.

I'm not completely sure this was the best time of year to do this.  I was afraid to do it over the winter because I am never convinced that the Hedychium is quite hardy.  Some of the bulbs often seem to go mushy.  However, when I dug them up, I found them all very muscular.  They were growing under, over, and through each other and really made the job pretty difficult.  It was digging up the Hedychium that made this job hard, not the Bermuda grass or ivy.  In fact, the weeds really never seemed to bother the Ginger Lilies, just the gardener, since the bed looks so awful in the winter time and is impossible to weed in the summer.  I waited until I started seeing a few shoots growing before starting this project, thinking that this is generally a good time to dig and divide.  However, the growing shoots are very brittle and I snapped off more than a few of them.  I was pretty annoyed with myself each time.  Even some of the ones that I managed to carefully work around in the excavation stage ended up snapping when I put them back in the ground.  I think it will be OK anyway, though.  The amount of plant mass in the rhizomes is so much that I can't imagine them not finding a way to put out new growth.
The Ginger lilies were here when I moved to this house.  I think they probably came from a division from the house next door (or perhaps vice versa).  My next-door neighbors had a huge row of them all the way along the side of their garage, but last year, before they even bloomed, took them all out.  I do not understand why.  That clump also had an infestation of Bermuda grass, so maybe the prospect of trying to get rid of it was too overwhelming, but I think getting rid of the Ginger Lilies was a mistake.  Now the neighbor's bed has basically nothing but the Bermuda grass.  How sad.  If they change their minds, I'll be happy to share some of mine back with them.  That's the best part of sharing plant divisions and cuttings.  If ever by some disaster out of your control (or in this case, seemingly in your control) you lose your plant, there is insurance out there: you can get some back from whomever you shared with.
In my opinion, the labor-intensive renovation was definitely worth the trouble.  Ginger lilies are a truly awesome plant if they are happy in your garden.  They grow to about four feet tall and have thick strappy pointed leaves all up the stalk.  They like moisture and tend to curl up temporarily if it gets too dry, but when they are happy the foliage is a beautiful contrast to all the small-leaved plants I have.  The fragrant flowers begin blooming in August and continue usually until frost.  Each flower lasts only a day or two, but there is a seemingly infinite supply in each fat flower cluster.  The frost was so late this year that I did actually see the end of the blooms and the start of some crazy-looking seed pods, but I had a few blooms even in December.  I had blooms on the Ginger lilies and paperwhites on the same day for the first time ever in my garden.  The flowers bloom in the evening, attracting sphinx moths, but last throughout the day too.  They are extremely fragrant.  When frost threatens, I cut off some of the stems and put them in water and the flower buds continue to open for several more days indoors.

As I labored, my mind wandered (it tends to do that) and it occurred to me that perhaps I have graduated from being a beginning gardener to an intermediate gardener.  That is, if this theory of mine is correct.  Perhaps a beginning gardener can be thought of as a person who grows bunches of plants pretty much indiscriminately because they are still learning about the plants and what will do well in the garden.  Meanwhile, some things are doing too well and some things are going wrong and a beginning gardener is not necessarily aware of it.  That is why the intermediate gardener, years later, ends up spending so much time renovating entire neglected-looking garden beds.  The beginner wasn't even necessarily neglecting them, but until they have become "intermediate", they aren't particularly effective at dealing with it.  Or maybe all this renovation is just a sign that I am still a beginner.  Maybe my commencement as intermediate is still to come.  I am very much looking forward to the time, in another 20 years or whatever it takes, when I will be "advanced" and all my garden beds will be lovely all the time.  Don't burst my bubble about that fantasy, please! but intermediate and advanced gardeners out there, what marked the turning point for you?  Beginners, what do you think the next stage will bring?

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Stinky flower

My Hoya is blooming.  I probably should not even attempt to name it specifically, but I think it is Hoya carnosa.  This is a houseplant I started from a cutting from my mom's very old plant about four or five years ago.  She had just moved from the house I grew up in and I found her plant banished to a low basement with only a small window.  I feared for its life, having flashbacks of Oscar, another trailing hanging houseplant she wanted to throw out when I was a teenager because it was too sloppy looking.  Lots of gardeners cringe at the idea of throwing a perfectly good plant in the trash, but I wasn't a gardener yet.  Instead I think I just knew that I was sloppy too (being still a teenager), and felt it would be a mistake to let my mom get a start on tossing out everyone in the house who met that description!  Anyway, years later when I found the Hoya in the basement there was no way to get the behemoth into my car for a 350 mile trip.  By now I was a gardener, so I knew that the best insurance for a plant is cuttings.  I put one cutting in a plastic cup of water on my Mom's kitchen windowsill, so she could pot it up and have a nice, neat houseplant that could live in the main living space.  I put mine in a plastic water bottle and it survived the journey home very nicely.
A week or so ago, I visited my Mom again for her birthday and was amused to see her Hoya cutting still growing in water on her kitchen windowsill.  I'm impressed it has survived for years without ever seeing a particle of dirt.  In fact, there were cuttings of two other plants rooted in water on the kitchen window sill, and another in the basement.  I found more plantlets growing hydroponically than actual potted plants, but the original Hoya is also still holding on in the dim basement.  On another visit I guess I should buy a bag of potting soil and pot them all up for her.  

Meanwhile, I potted my cutting four or five years ago and it bloomed the first year.  I don't know if it's normal or not, but I wonder if it has more to do with where you take the cuttings than any great hort skill.  I think I probably took the cuttings from the very long trailing tendrils that the plant puts out.  I now know that these are where it blooms as well.  Mine has flowered many times since the first time, always in the same spot.  This is an interesting thing about Hoyas; the flowering occurs on a specialized flowering spur that grows incrementally longer with each bloom.  This is why you should not deadhead a Hoya, since there's a risk you could put a stop to the blooms.

I must confess I have been tempted to put a stop to them because there's another odd thing about my particular plant.  It stinks!  I remember the first time we noticed the original Hoya blooming when I was a kid.  There was a wonderful fragrance in the evening that took several days to track down.  The nearly leafless trailing stem with the flower spur on it had made its way almost unnoticed up over the door frame of the front door.  I had never actually seen a house plant of any kind in flower - it was momentous.  The memory of that mysterious and wonderful fragrance was another reason I wanted a Hoya of my own, but my plant, genetically identical to the plant of my childhood, STINKS!  The fragrance is both extremely strong and unpleasant and makes the room uninhabitable for several nights in a row while it blooms.  This is a bizarre and still unsolved mystery, and if anyone out there has a clue, I would love to hear it.  Maybe my memory of the fragrance is colored by the idealism of youth?  Or maybe I was not allowed to stay up late enough to get the full overpowering sticky stink of it?  I know that different people perceive fragrances differently.  Could my own sense of smell have changed as I got older?  I thought it must be one of these explanations until just a few days ago, when I got another conflicting clue....

My Hoya is now in bloom again.  But now, for the first time, it has two flowers.  One of them is on the same flowering spur where it has always bloomed, and the other is on a new spur.  This time, as evening falls, the fragrance is still overpoweringly strong ... but maybe a little ... just a little ... less offensive.  It's a weird thing, really; I almost get the feeling I'm smelling two different scents that play back and forth, sometimes smelling like one thing (nasty) and sometimes another (nicer).  Could it be that the old flower is stinky and the flower on the new spur has the nice fragrance I remember from years ago?  The odors are so strong I can't be sure.  Maybe the old flowering spur has mutant stinky genes.  I really hope next time it blooms, it blooms only on the new spur, so I can assess this theory non-destructively.  But if not, the old spur might just go the way of Oscar, even though I can't be sure.  Now that I have another flower spur for insurance.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Foggy Garden

We've had some foggy spring mornings lately, and today it was foggy all day and a bit chilly.  The irony that this occurs on the weekend after several weekdays of gorgeous warm sun could be a bit depressing.  But as the perennially cheerful Faramir says to comfort Eowyn at the end of the Lord of the Rings, "it's just the damp of the first spring rain."  There will be more spring to come.  More growth, more flowers.  Meanwhile, the misty, damp atmosphere is good for a few photos.
The Leucojum aestivum "Gravetye Giant" is still blooming.  This is only the second year I have had these in my garden and I am very impressed.  Individual blooms are small (which is probably why I was not eager to buy them at first) but a reasonably large clump of them produces an appealing show of blooms for several weeks.  This year's first bloom debuted in time for February's Garden Bloggers Bloom Day (2/15).  The photo gives a hint how this is possible.  It appears that each stem puts out several blooms at staggered times.  (This photo is also my Macro Monday contribution.  Check out Lisa's Chaos for more Macro Monday posts.)
My yard abuts a tidal marsh.  The untamed wildness of this spot always impresses me.  I enjoy walking out here and seeing how the look of the marsh changes under different conditions.  My husband is starting a new blog project to feature photos of the marsh on The Heron Files.
The Hyacinthoides hispanica or Spanish bluebells are blooming.  As is "normal" for this year, this is at least two weeks early.  Most of mine are planted close to a wisteria that blooms at a similar time, and close to the house where I can enjoy them from the windows.  However, I put a small clump in the "way back," the part of our backyard far from the house that gets very little maintenance.  During one of our more-and-more frequent floods, a piece of log floated to this spot right behind it to highlight it nicely.
After being out in the damp of the first spring rain for a while, I'm a bit chilled.  I think I will leave the foggy garden for a bit and go inside and have a Foggy Garden.  Every weekend morning, my husband makes delectable espresso drinks.  Sometimes they're a little too high-octane for me so he makes me a tea latte instead.  My usual is a "London Fog" made with Earl Gray tea, a shot of vanilla flavored coffee syrup and a generous topping of foam.  When he found some Violet flavored coffee syrup once, the gardener in me just had to try it.  The "Foggy Garden" was born.  Mmmm.

One last flower photo.  This is the Common Blue Violet.  I think it is pretty definitely violet and not blue.  I enjoy the flowers and especially the frittillary butterflies it feeds.  Even though some consider this a weed I consider it a fairly benign one and leave clumps of it at the edges of my beds and under the picket fence where its short stature makes it a huge improvement over the other weeds it crowds out.  

I hope you enjoyed a tour of the foggy garden.  Hopefully there will be sun again soon here and wherever you are (maybe even on a weekend).

Monday, March 19, 2012

Book Review: Macro Photography for Gardeners and Nature Lovers

Today I'm joining HolleyGarden at Roses and Other Gardening Joys for garden book reviews.  A book I got last year that I absolutely love is "Macro Photography for Gardeners and Nature Lovers: The Essential Guide to Digital Techniques" by Alan L. Detrick.  I was already a macro aficionado before reading this book.  I really enjoy getting close to both flowers and insects; frequently I can see detail in my macro shots that I did not even notice with my eyes alone (this may be because my eyes are no longer capable of focusing that close to my face!)  Even though I had already loved taking macros and already had a great macro lens (the Canon 100 mm macro -- which has pretty much the best optics-to-price ratio you can get) this book really opened my eyes to more techniques and styles to try.  The book is inspiring.  Macro beginners might like to know that there is a chapter on equipment including macro attachments and extenders.  According to the author, you don't need a dedicated macro lens to do macro photography.

The best part of the book is the detailed discussion of photographic techniques and decision making.  Almost every photo has enlightening information in the caption, whether about composition, camera settings or additional tools.  There are also many examples where Detrick shows side-by-side comparisons of two or three different frames showing the same subject shot with slight differences in technique like choice of f-stop, lighting, or viewing angle.  In a few cases, Detrick includes a much longer description, a page or so, of a single photo, sharing the inspiration, all aspects of photographic decision making, and the final product.  Something new for me was the discussion of diffusers and reflectors.  A few side-by-side examples showing the difference they can make has convinced me to try it.  So far I don't feel like I've gotten as good results with it as the author (probably not surprisingly) but I will definitely keep trying.  Another thing I learned is how much difference the background can make in macro photos; I've been trying to keep that in mind more as I shoot. 

The photography in this book is awesome.  Even if Detrick did not include all the eye-opening information about taking the best macros, the photos would be an inspiration.  Even flipping through the book and analyzing which photos I like best has improved my own photography.  For example, I really like the photos in which the mostly out-of-focus background has a color echo with the subject.  This seems attainable in the case of flower photos, since other blooms on the same plant can sometimes provide the background.  Also, there are a few photos of insects here in which the insect is actually rather small in the frame.  This isn't something I would have ever thought to do on my own; I've been obsessed with getting up-close-and-personal with my macro insects to really get lots of detail.  Yet, Detrick's photos show a sort of fantasy world from the insect's point of view that really appeals to me.  For another example, after shutting my mouth again after my jaw dropped open at one gorgeous photo of the stamens of a daylily that looked like candle flames, I went out and tried to copy it for myself just to learn the technique.  I don't think I would feel comfortable showing this image as an original work (although it is not all that much like Detrick's after all) but I think I learned from the exercise.  Obviously, I will not show copies of Detrick's photos here, so I'm decorating this post with some favorites of my own macro photos, which are of course but a pale comparison.  Enjoy!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Ladybug - Macro Monday

I really enjoy "bugs" in the garden.  While I like taking pictures of flowers, insects and spiders are my favorite macro subjects.  So I was very happy to see my first ladybug of the spring.  I find it a little difficult sometimes to get good photos of small moving subjects, and I realized last summer that I was going through a phase where I was very focused on the technical aspects and consequently producing images that are nice but not particularly compelling.  To try to get out of this rut, late last summer I started trying to really consider color, both in the main subject and the background in insect macro shots.  This ladybug caught my eye when it landed briefly on a purple deadnettle (lawn weed) near sunset.  The reddish purple hue of the deadnettle makes an unusual and intriguing color combination with the ladybug's cheerful red, I think.

Today I'm playing along on Macro Monday, hosted by Lisa's Chaos.  Check it out to see some other cool bugs, and lots of other macro subjects.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Bloom Day March 2012

Here it is Bloom Day (thanks to Carol at May Dreams Gardens) and I've been so busy out in the garden, now that the weather has been nice and it's still daylight after work, that I've been lax about getting photos.  Right now, the most notable blooms in my garden might be the Pearl Bush (Exochorda racemosa).  Right now I'm looking at it in full bloom, but since it's the graceful buds that give it its name, I'll show pictures from two days ago:
I think this will be blooming for a few weeks at least.  I think this is a great, underused spring blooming shrub (or small tree in my garden).

Also finally in full bloom and putting on quite a show is the Carolina Jasmine.  Here's a shot showing the vine in all its glory.  It suits me, but I have to trim it back every time my 6'4" friend comes to visit.

And another photo showing some individual flowers.

Of course, it was the daffodils that really got spring going.  It started with the Ice Follies and Carltons (I think they're Carlton, anyway).

And then these unknown short daffodils that I can't identify that I already showed in a previous post.

And now there are various jonquil types blooming all at once.  I know that many of the all-yellow ones are Sweetness, but the ones with different colors on the cups and the perianths all came in a mix so I can only guess what their names are.  Sweetness blooms very early for me, but with a very long bloom period.  Frequently it blooms with multiple flowers per stem, and then later with a single flower per stem (presumably on smaller, younger daughter bulbs).

The hyacinths in the above photo are a nice surprise.  I had read that they will only last a few years in my climate, getting looser and sparser flower spikes each year.  I love the scent and am happy to have them as long as they last, and in fact the looser flower spikes appeal to me as much or more as the fuller ones since they seem less formal.  However, last year I dug these up to make room for a new patio and found that the bulbs had multiplied.  I spread them out and this year the flower spikes seem pretty full again.  Maybe they just tend to crowd themselves out.  The lower-growing purple in this picture and in the background of some of the other pictures is creeping speedwell "Georgia Blue."  I think the color looks good with the brassy daffodils, but it's a little faded already in this spot in full sun.  Another patch I have in part shade started blooming a little later but will last much longer.

Here are a few more bulbs for good measure:
Dutch iris.  The white ones are always the first to bloom in my garden.

Grape hyacinth.

And last but greatly appreciated, Ipheon.  These grow naturalized in people's lawns in some places around here, especially in Williamsburg.  I would love to have that but so far there seem to be exactly the same number of plants as what I originally planted three or four years ago.  They come in different shades and I really like this blue color.  I could buy more instead of waiting for them to multiply but I'm afraid I would not find the same blue color again.  I don't remember if it was a specific named cultivar. 

Other things that are blooming in my garden include the flowering quince, finally in full bloom after putting out a few flowers here and there since December.  My snowflakes are also blooming in much greater numbers now, and are doing a decent job of offsetting the color clash between the hot pink quince and red berries on a nearby nandina.  The hellebore is still in bloom and so is the periwinkle.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Chrysalis - Macro Monday

     I'm joining Lisa's Chaos for Macro Monday today.  Usually I take a new photo over the weekend to show for Macro Monday, but today I'm using one from the archives.  This is a shot of a butterfly chrysalis.  I believe it's a sulphur butterfly.  I spotted it during the summer in a wildflower meadow at the Norfolk Botanical Garden.  It's funny, but this meadow is one of my favorite spots at the botanical garden, rather than all the beautifully manicured gardens with their refined horticultural treasures (I like those, too, though). 

     I call this image "Promise."  I chose to show it because I'm all jazzed that it got selected for the Suffolk (Virginia) 28th Annual Juried Photography Exhibit which is being shown at the Suffolk Art Center between now and April 13.  This is my first photo to be in a show.  A friend of my husband's suggested we both put in some work for the show.  My husband also got a photo in and our friend got all three of his entries selected, so we had a great time Friday evening wandering around the gallery seeing each other's prints and all the other great images.
     Happy Macro Monday!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Vanquishing a Foe

     Heavenly bamboo.  It has it's good points.  I remember a long time ago walking around an elegant section of town and admiring the tall stems and bright red berries on clumps of Nandina domestica near the front door or steps of many of the houses.  I enjoy the lush clusters of berries, bronze in the fall and lipstick red in winter.  I like that they are evergreen and also often have red leaves in the winter. 
     They require no fertilizer or supplemental water.  It's nice, in a way, that you can cut them down to the ground and they will grow back again as full as ever.  They're great for something like hiding the utility cap on your cable TV access point.  If the cable guy needs it cut back, it'll recover quickly.
     But the biggest strength of Nandina is also one of its biggest drawbacks: it is very hard to kill.  You can have too much of a good thing.  I have basically a solid wall of Nandina six feet tall and 90 feet long that was planted by previous owners of my house.  
     It's partly my fault.  They were more spaced out and not this big when we moved in, but they spread slowly and steadily, and I have been all but helpless in the face of the behemoth until only a year or two ago.  I had tried pruning it, then hacking it, but it kept coming back.  I had tried digging it up, but could only make a dent on small isolated clumps.  "Making a dent" in fact, is what the Nandina did to my square-tipped spade when my husband tried to dig some up a few years ago.  The blade was bent badly enough it had to be replaced.
     Now I have developed a system.  I wish I had figured this out a long time ago, because the Heavenly bamboo hedge is going to take a lot of work to vanquish, but at least now I know how to attack it.
     Here are my weapons:

Step 1:  I cut off all the berries on the clump I'm going to work on.  This is going to be a violent battle and if I knock off a ton of berries, I'm just going to end up with clumps of seedlings.  I usually do find a small number of seedlings a few months after removing a clump anyway, from the years-worth of berries that have already dropped, but it makes me feel better to think I'm not sowing the seeds of my enemy.  I don't put these in the compost bin either; I throw them in the trash.  I don't know if this is overly cautious or not.

Step 2: I cut off the tops with long-handled loppers down to about a foot tall.  This is enough to remove most of the leaves and small branches, so I can see what I'm doing without getting leaves in my face, and enough is sticking out of the accumulated leaf mulch so I can see where the stumps are and not poke myself in the foot with them.  I pile the stems up either behind my compost pile or behind my shed.  The do a pretty good job of suppressing weeds in these spots while they break down.  The leaves fall off and mulch the ground after a while, and I sometimes retrieve a few stems later to use as plant stakes.  

Step 3: Now for the real heavy-duty work.  I rake up the mulch and dig up the Nandina by the roots a little bit at a time.  This is a bit of work, but not nearly as hard as trying to dig up a whole clump.  I have no desire to replant this stuff so I can go after bite-size pieces.  First I cut around a small section on the edge of a clump.  Generally, it's easy on the outside: I just use the spade to loosen the soil around the edge.  On the inside of the section, it takes a good tool to cut.  I don't do it with the spade, because I don't have that kind of back strength.  Instead I use either a mattock (if there's room to swing it) or the drop bar shown on the right edge of the group of tools.  The blade on this tool is relatively small and easy to get into a tight spot, but instead of using your foot and your body weight to cut, you are mainly using the weight of the tool.  It sometimes takes three or four blows to cut through a typical Nandina root, but it's not too hard on my back.  On the first pass, I don't worry about cutting every root, since I can't see what I'm doing anyway.  But I'm trying to loosen the clump enough to lift it with the spade (without damaging the spade or my back).  It turns out that Nandina roots are not very deep at all, just a few inches, so once I have things loosened up, I can slide the spade underneath and start lifting.  This makes it much easier to see where to make the next cuts.  Now it's a straightforward matter to cut the rest of the roots to remove the first segment, and start targeting the next segment.  Working around the edges of the clump, each segment is easier to get out as the roots are all being lifted and loosened.  
     Here are the roots of a patch I was able to remove in about 30 minutes of work.  

     The area I pulled them out of is covered in pine needles in the next photo.  Obviously I still have a lot of work to do, but I'm looking forward to planting something of my own choosing in this nice rich patch of soil.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Macro Monday: Moss

Take a glimpse into this tiny strange world on top of a brickbat.  Also check out what other tiny worlds people are photographing for Macro Monday, hosted by Lisa's Chaos.
In an out-of-the way spot on the north side of my house is a shady, damp place where I put plants I bought or divided while they wait to be planted in the ground.  There's also a handful of brickbats that I used to mark a spot where I occasionally stick cuttings so I don't lose track of them.  (Brickbats are just broken bricks.  If I had enough I might make a crazy-quilt brickbat path like some of the ones in the gardens in Colonial Williamsburg.) I guess it's very damp and shady indeed, because I found a happy healthy colony of mosses.

I know very little about moss and about all I do know I learned about five minutes ago in Brian Capon's Botany for Gardeners.  The little brown stalks are part of the moss's reproductive cycle.  Actually, it's weirder than that, because they are totally separate plants.  When you first notice moss in your garden, it may be just a soft green mat with no little brown stalks.  The green moss is a collection of both male and female plants.  These plants are unusual because they are haploid, meaning they have only one copy of chromosomes in the cells.  You may recall from high school biology that human body cells have pairs of chromosomes and so are diploid, but that human sperm and egg cells have only a single copy of each chromosome.  Those are haploid cells.  Mosses are a bit different.  The green part of the moss consists of plants that are entirely haploid.  These are the gametophytes, whose job is to produce gametes: sperm and eggs.  The sperm sit in "splash cups" on the males and are splashed onto neighboring females by raindrops.  Moss sperm cells actually "swim" to the eggs through water.  It's only when the sperm and egg get together that a diploid cell (the zygote) is formed.  This is the beginning of a new stage of the life cycle of the moss.  The zygote splits by cell division to form another plant, called the sporophyte.  The job of the sporophyte is to form spores.  In fact, it doesn't even photosynthesize so it draws food from the female gametophyte it's attached to, but it is a separate plant.  These sporophytes are the small brown stalks sticking up out of the green moss.  The spores form in the structure at the top and then disperse to start new colonies.