random updates

San Miguel Island buckwheat, Eriogonum grande var. rubescens, possibly protected by a cloak of extra-hot chili powder

Update #1: The gopher chronicles (Original post: Cooking for Vermin)

It’s been three weeks since I tried to ward off gophers by using extra-hot chili powder. People want to know if it works.

The conclusion: There’s no sign of obvious damage from pocket gophers in the treated area. The plants are growing and blooming normally. That might sound like success, but there hasn’t been any gopher damage anywhere else in the garden, either. So it’s inconclusive at this point. But I’ll post as the season goes on. I really really want this to work.

Update #2: Life post-hacking (Original post: I was hacked)

After I realized that my blog was hacked I cleaned out what looked like the problem code. But two days later the WordPress Pharma Hack was back. I did more drastic cleanup after that, and it looks like that took care of the problem.

The tide turns...

Even after cleanup, because it takes days to weeks for Google to catch up and reindex everything on a site, searches for my blog showed many titles for my posts as promising ways to buy various drugs without prescription. Even as recently as Wednesday, last week, the number one blog keyword was “Prescription.” For a garden blog it’s pathetic to have that word ahead of the next four on the list: “garden,” “plants,” “blog” or “landscape.” But the tide turned on Thursday, and the good words continue to rise as the hacker words sink.

Update #3: Aloe, good-bye (Original post: Exotic plant, exotic pest)

It’s been almost a year since I mentioned that my specimen Aloe barberae (aka A. bainesii) was in serious decline. Aloe mites had attacked the plant and I was blaming its fate on them. The plant continued to decline to the point that it had just a few growing tips that kept getting smaller and smaller. Something was very wrong and we cut the plant back to a stump one to two months later, leaving three small pups that were springing from the lowest two feet of the plant.

The dying trunk of the dying aloe, with the three pups looking increasingly worse. Time to pull the pups off to root them, it looks like...

Since then even those little pups have failed to thrive. Signs of mites have been few, so I’m beginning to think that some other cause is responsible for the problems. Hypothesis #1 at the moment: pocket gophers eating the roots. My main reason for thinking this is that there’s another A. barberae just a few feet away that looks robust, with none of the signs of illness the big plant was showing. I’ll keep my hope up for that plant.

A rooted cutting of the original big aloe

In the meantime, aloes being aloes, I figured that all the little branch tips I cut off might root easily. I treated all the chunks with miticide, stuck them in potting mix and kept them just-moist. All three took.

Quite frankly I’m not sure there’s room in the front for two giant aloes I had there in the first place–placing the two original plants so close was a mistake. So I gave two of the rooted plants to people in my office who were eager to grow this terrific plant. I still have one rooted plant, along with a half dozen more unrooted branch tips sitting on my greenhouse floor that are still green, almost a year later. I might end up with an impressive aloe in a pot if I can’t find a place for it. And if I root the remaining branch tips I could have a half-dozen more giveaways.

The original plant looks doomed, but pieces of the original clone live on. In the life and death world of gardens that’s almost a happy ending.

Update #4: Crest-fallen (Original post: Mutant Primrose)

In case you’re wonderng what happened to the mutant Hooker’s evening primrose from a May 12 posting, it looks like the weight of the extra tissue on the crested growing tip was more than the stem could keep aloft. Within a week of the original photo, the stem flopped to the ground, where it has stayed, still alive, but not thriving…

Now (early July)...
How the plant looked in early May...

Update #5: A different outcome for a crested growth (Original post: Deformity or Biological Wonder?)

My last progress report is on this mutant crested growth of a Euphorbia lambii. Since I posted on it in June of 2009, the plant seems to have incorporated the crest into its continued growth patterns, unlike on what was going on with the primrose above. Still, you can tell that the growth pattern isn’t quite what normal plants go through. Still interesting, two years later…

The crest as of July of this year...
The crest in June, 2009
A different view of the plant as it looks today. The spindly-looking-ness of the plant is my fault (forgetting to water it enough) and not something the crested growth is responsible for.

9 thoughts on “random updates”

  1. How fascinating! It’s comforting for me to see that even experienced gardeners like you still have surprises and more surprised in their gardens. And who’s to say what’s good and what’s bad?

  2. Hi James, I hope you are doing well. It’s been a while since we talked. I have been slowing down on my blogging. Nonetheless I enjoy stopping by and saying hello.

    I think update posts are great. Sometimes I wonder if any of the readers wonder about what happened to stuff I post about. I’m never really sure but I enjoy hearing updates from posts I’ve read.

    Your garden pond and bench look fantastic. I can imagine it was indeed enjoyed by all.

  3. Bad news about the hack. Sorry to hear that. I hope you get it worked out.

    Gopher repellent–got to tell you, nothing but traps has ever worked for me…good luck on it though. Like every California gardener, I HATE gophers!

  4. James,
    I think all the wierd forms of fasciated growth coming up in your garden is a sign that you need to take up Ikebana. Did wordpress help with the hack, or were you on your own to figure out how to deal with it? Scarry!

  5. I agree about updates; it’s nice to find out what happened to earlier observational posts.
    I particularly like the saga of the aloe, and if we lived in proximity to one another I’d be bringing you succulent cuttings asd asking for a bit of that A. barberae.

  6. I like updates and progress reports as well…one’s garden is really a series of stories, isn’t it? I think I’ve gravitated to a few blogs where similar plants are grown and I can compare my experience with theirs. Those I do enjoy and follow and each post is like the next chapter. Thanks, James!

    Your hillside of Buckwheat should be stunningly beautiful if I consider how well it does in Town Mouses garden, whose picture of it was posted recently. I just planted one this year and it bloomed already, though small. Pretty neat plant.

    Love all your aloes and succulents,…I miss growing them with all their exotic-looking flowers. I can grow finger aloes and dudleyas, I’ve found.

  7. TM, sometimes I just sit back and take it all in…

    Tina, glad to hear from you! I hope you’re doing okay with all the heat. I mean to follow up with a lot of what I write about once or twice but lose steam. New stuff often is lots more fun to write about!

    HB, I hear from several directions that traps are the only way to go. I’ll probably eventually listen to all of you and end up using them…

    Colleen, actually I “did” ikebana way back, though not that well. The hack was on my personal hosting of the WordPress software, so I was on my own. WordPress.com seems to do a pretty good job of taking care of their site.

    Maggie, it’s almost Biblical, me turning this one dying plant into multiple live ones.

    Sue, I’m glad you’re following along with the saga. I hope your buckwheat thrives. I started some from seed 2-3 years ago and they’re finally hitting their stride, looking bushy and prolific. (Pictures to follow.) I’m glad that you found some succulents that work for you up in the mountains. Nice to hear that you don’t have to give up on all succulents. The really add some spice to the garden with all their cool forms.

  8. Good news that the gophers are not much in evidence, whether it is to do with the chilli powder or not. Glad that your aloe lives on in its clones. Even more glad you seem to be free of the pharm hack now. I had a client whose site was hacked, turned out to be a security issue on the hosting service, now fixed. Such a pain though. Price of being self-hosted!

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