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I live in the Midwest USA and I'm making plans for a rock garden inspired by one in Japan. I would probably need something tolerant to winter temperatures and hot summers, along with a mostly sunny lawn (I've got 2 trees packed into the corner of my backyard, one large birch, and one maple that's ~13 feet tall), just a generally hardy species that can tolerate the climate of the Midwest.

What's the best species for this garden project?

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I suggest walking in a woods to look for a local moss suited for your location. You may be able to collect some to get started. I have a small pond surrounded by rock in E.TX, Now 25 years old. A native moss volunteered after a few years and slowly grew in cracks and seams. I did not start it , but after it started , I moved pieces around to speed spreading. In my experience garden shops do not stock moss, especially the chain stores. A friend had a small garden shop with an extra wide variety. My moss start may well have been a hitchhiker on plants I purchased.

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  • I, unfortunately, do not live near any forested areas, the closest is a park with a few trees and dead branches, Nebraska isn't too good for forested areas Commented Feb 1, 2023 at 23:40
  • You propyl should look at succulents like some varieties of sedums. Commented Feb 2, 2023 at 17:01
  • Look at Ajuga / bugle weed . A low small tough flowering plant .Growa well in N IL and E TX. Sun, shade,whatever. Commented Feb 2, 2023 at 17:04
  • I suggest Mazus reptans, which is an excellent groundcover for sun/part shade. You'll have to give it a little extra water its first year in the ground, along with an organic mulch like cocoa bean hulls, rice hulls, pine needles,etc. After it gets established it should only need water if you're in a drought. It may be difficult to find locally, however. Typically, one plant can grow up to a 24" diameter in a few years. Blue flowers around Mother's Day here in Wisconsin.
    – Jurp
    Commented Feb 2, 2023 at 19:44
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Two species I've found that purportedly are "sun tolerant" which is an abnormal trait for mosses in general (though if you put them in competition with grass, you'll have a project keeping them from being overtaken by grass in sunny areas, I think...)

Bryum caespiticium (according to some, "sidewalk" moss)

Leucobryum glaucum (pincushion moss)

Can't swear they will work for your situation, but if you can't find any local (-ish) moss to transplant, might be worth a try to see if either or both works for you. Appear to be commonly available via specialist suppliers online or via mail-order.

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