Destructive Gophers in the Garden

They’re single-minded, for sure. Gophers are a problem in my city, not just my garden, which makes gardening a significant challenge. In parkways and elsewhere, soil mounds and holes dot our city’s landscape. In recent years, they’ve started tunneling into my front yard as well. Their behavior greatly influence my decisions about how and where to garden. They made a recent attempt to expand their tunnels where one of my purple aeonium plants grows. The plant survived, thankfully, but I’ve lost dozens of rose plants because gophers enjoy eating those particular roots very much. They’ve also made two attempts into my raised row bed gardens but apparently didn’t find anything of sufficient interest to make further tunneling attempts, for now.

Another survivor is my Meyer lemon tree, where a few gopher holes appeared. I kept praying for its survival after it had been attacked and left the tree small and looking rather unwell. I dutifully watered and fed this tree and this year has a few fruits, albeit immature, appeared. That alone felt like a victory because I thought that this plant was near its end. Apparently citrus tree roots are not delicious enough for them as they’ve also ignored my kumquat and blood orange trees. In my garden, at least, gophers have ignored my apple trees, olive trees, dragon trees, tomato plants, lettuces, my other succulents, and pink breath of heaven.

As time goes on, it is clear that my strategy for gopher abatement will continually evolve and require multiple methods at once. It can be several weeks of inactivity, followed by a fresh round of tunneling. Especially in my food garden, a lush lawn is a pipe dream. Many of my plants are above ground in containers (although years ago, they climbed into containers and devoured quite a bit of the cabbage I grew) but the tunneling continues. It can be challenging to have to fend off garden-unfriendly creatures from underground and overhead, eyeing my crops as an endless buffet. The good news in all of this is that there are many crops that I enjoy that these creatures clearly do not. Chicken wire has been helpful for many years, but is also vulnerable. I’m likely to build some type of movable contraption that has parts that are impervious to strikes from its large, powerful claws. As the saying goes, “Necessity is the mother of invention.”


Succulents: Purple Aeoniums with Flower Spike Buds

My purple aeoniums have several flower spike buds this season, the most of any season. I love watching my aeoniums at any stage of development, but especially when they are producing flower spikes. Before the eye-popping yellow flowers come to be, the green color in the center of the rosettes are very beautiful, as are the green flower buds themselves, in striking contrast to the purple rosette petals. This is the plant, of all plants in my back yard, that I check on first, a real favorite.img_1668img_1669

Succulents: Purple Aeonium Flower Spike in Spring Bloom!

The intense yellow flowers are a striking contrast to the deep purple rosettes of the aeonium.IMG_3345 My purple aeoniums are mature enough that they produce these flower spikes every year and are a roaring way to start spring!

Succulents: Purple Aeonium and Jade Plant Growing Mightily

Although I am quite pleased about the height and spread of my purple aeonium, my jade plant, which is growing along side of it is also making a stunning showing, both in height and spread of its own. The jade plant reminds me of a lively dragon. Check them out together! They both started out in five-gallon containers, with the jade plant actually starting out as an indoor plant for a few years. I’m very pleased with the changes. These succulents are robust and can make a very dramatic showing, separately and together, in any garden.IMG_3334

CONSUMER ALERT UPDATE:  Ingestion of the sap of the jade plant may cause illness and skin contact with the sap may also cause dermatitis. More information on toxic plants can be found here:

Succulent: Purple Aeonium Awash in Aerial Roots

The centerpiece of my backyard garden, a bountiful purple aeonium, now has many aerial roots. This wonderful succulent is nearly five feet in height and three feet in width, thriving. This is one of the plants in my garden that I imagine will be with me for my entire life, which is so amazing.  But the comparatively rapid development of these aerial or air roots indicate that it may be time to start reducing the size of this plant, to prevent the weight and underground roots of the large plant from over-stressing it. In other words, it’s time to propagate this aeonium! In the past, I’ve put in a tall metal shepherd’s hook and used plastic garden ties to support some of the rosette-heavy branches, to reduce the stress, but the plant is saying that additional supports are not sufficient to reduce the stress on it.IMG_3332

In June 2014, I’d noticed the aerial roots (  beginning to form. Now, they’ve developed enough to indicate that it’s time to find a new place in the back yard to “further the dynasty” of the purple aeonium. In the past few months, I’ve planted a few of fallen rosettes and they have taken to their location, just across from the primary parent plant. In the next few weeks, I will begin the process of  additional culling some branches from the parent plant. The parent plant will appreciate this effort and it won’t be long, I’m sure, before this new aeonium location will explode with healthy growth. Although, I must say, the aerial roots are quite lovely.


Succulent: Purple Aeonium Branches Sprout Roots

The purple aeonium continues to amaze. Check out the roots that are sprouting from the branches, which, by the way are well above the ground! The roots to the left look like thin fibers while those on the right are finger-like and thick, very much like my Dracaena draco tree and wild grape.IMG_3232

This is the first time any of my purple aeoniums have done this, so my impression is that this succulent plant has reached sufficient maturity to start doing this. The thicker roots – I have a good idea of what they’ll do: they will just get longer and longer until they make contact with the soil and grow into it. But the thin fiber-like roots: I am not sure how they will change with time, or if they will change. I am quite excited to see what happens, though. This lovely purple succulent is such a thrilling surprise!

CONSUMER ALERT: The grapes on the succulent, known as “wild grape,” have been described as poisonous or toxic because the grapes contain oxalic acid, and should not be eaten. Further information about this plant (and its toxicity) is found here:

Succulent: Purple Aeonium Has Emerging Rosettes

Take heart: when a branch snaps off of a healthy purple aeonium, with time, new rosettes will form at where the branch broke off. I’ve had a few branches break down in recent months (and have planted them elsewhere in my garden) but it is always encouraging to see that where a seemingly sad garden event occurred, in its place, a happy garden event is waiting to happen.IMG_3229

Check out the very tiny rosettes that are just beginning to form at one of these branch-break sites. As these new rosettes mature and larger, it will not surprise me if  yet another break happens at this particular site as well. That’s just what happens with aeonium when they get mature, tree-like in height, and weighed down with large and heavy rosettes. Of course, this plant’s endgame is to have me populate my entire garden with all of these broken-off branches until it will be just a jungle of purple aeoniums – not a bad situation to be in by the way!

Succulent: Purple Aeonium Gets Support

A few branches of my purple aeonium have broken off from my primary purple aeonium plant in recent months. I have planted those broken-off branches directly into the ground in a different location of my back yard so that they may become their own independent plants. This one plant started off in a modest plastic container years ago, but has thrived when planted directly into the ground. Now parts of this plant are approaching the height of my cement block wall – wow!IMG_3224

To reduce the likelihood or at least delay further breakages, I have put into the ground a large shepherd’s hook and tied green plastic garden tape to one of the hooks and a few of the rosette-heavy branches. I will add more garden tape (and reposition the tape) as warranted by the growth of the rosettes of the aeonium. The shepherd’s hook is a really good help in the garden when plants get intense growth. On the positive side, my purple aeonium needs support at this time because it has been thriving so well in its location, where it bathes in sunshine and gets good air flow. Taken minutes ago, this photo shows a typical day in the life of this very fortunate aeonium! Branch breakage is common in these plants so support of some sort is needed as they mature.

Purple Aeonium Fallen Branches Form a New Garden

In the past several days, my area has had rain and wind, which were catalysts to the breaking off of several branches of my purple aeoniums. Although a sad event, it is not an unexpected one since aeonium branches are not very strong. One too many rosettes and down they go. But these branches make for very easy propagation of new stand-alone purple aeonium plants. All you need to do is dig shallow holes in the ground, replace the dug-out soil, and water a bit so that the soil is moist but not soggy.IMG_3204

You can also simply place these broken branches into containers that contain potting soil and have stunning specimen plants. Check out my very “elaborate” support system to keep the newly planted branches from falling over – used plastic containers that have been stacked! Some of the broken branches had rosettes and others had fiery flower spikes. In a short time, these fallen branches will get taller and grow new rosettes, establishing a new purple aeonium garden.

Purple Aeonium Has Flower Buds

I have enjoyed watching my purple aeonium as it has matured. My plant has, on some years, produced conical flower spikes loaded with yellow flowers. I’m not sure this year if I will see flower cones, but I do see that at least three of my aeonium branches are showing flower buds. The contrast between vibrant green buds and purple-black petals is truly lovely and warms up my winter garden perfectly! In a few years since being moved from a simple plastic container to being planted in-ground, the succulent has grown quite tall and has produced many branches. Most of the petals are part of distinct flower-like rosettes; other petals, like those pictured, are like leaves dotting an elongated trunk, not looking like a rosette at all (more like a dragon!) – see the contrast in the photo of my aeonium forest! There are no words to describe how truly beautiful this plant is, such a head-turner and requires minimal care. I love it!IMG_3169IMG_3170

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