Looking for plants gophers don't like

Mindy asks, are there any gopher-resistant plants? We trap, plant in cages and would like some suggestions of plants that they will avoid.

Always planting in cages is becoming quite exhausting. One more question: what are mycorrhizal fungi? This name seems to appear every now and then without a simple explanation.

Here are some suggestions, but keep in mind it is difficult to second-guess a gopher's appetite. Artemesia, lavender, some native salvia, buddleja, ribes, thyme, rosemary, some cistus varieties and the native grass, Festuca californica, are a few possibilities.

Before investing in more than one of these suggested plants, try planting one and then see if it is left alone. By the way, the above plant suggestions are also admired for their low water requirements and their deer resistance, in addition to attracting honeybees, butterflies and hummingbirds into the garden. And then there is the fragrance from the lavender blooms.

Now to your second question: Mycorrhizal fungi are beneficial organisms that live or inhabit many plant roots. They assist their host plants with nutrient absorption from the soil. Much of the reference to mycorrhizal interactions involves forest conifers.

Edith asks, my son's houseplant Dracaena marginata, which I am taking care of during his winter absence, started looking droopy, especially the lower leaves.

I don't want it to die before he gets back home. What am I doing wrong?

Dracaenas are considered one of the easier houseplants to grow, but the soil may have been allowed to totally dry out. This is often the case when plants are exposed to dry indoor central heat and results in droopy leaves.

Mist and water the dracaena but allow the soil to almost dry out between watering and especially during the winter months.

Now it is time to mix a mild liquid fertilizer solution (to stimulate new growth) and feed with this solution at two-week intervals during the spring and summer months. Also the plant may be watered more frequently during the warm growing season, but be careful to avoid soggy soil or allowing the pot to sit in a tray filled with water that will result in stem and root rot.

Discontinue the above recommended fertilizing regimen during the winter months.

Donna F. asks, on one of my many trips to Southern California I observed an unusual tree with a trunk that was covered in spine-like bumps. The tree canopy was covered with pink blossoms that resembled orchids and was very tropical appearing.

Do you have any idea what the name of the tree could be and is it possible to grow it in our area?

From your description, it must be the floss silk tree, Chorisia speciosa. It is evergreen as long as temperatures stay above 27 degrees, very free-flowering, with blooms that may be any shade between pink and yellow.

Chorisia will grow in our area and is listed in Sunset Western Garden Book that it is adapted to zones 12-24.

It sounds like you might want to try growing this beautiful and unusual tree; it will require fast-draining soil and, once established, a good watering once a month during the growing season.

If all goes well, the tree can reach a mature height of 30 to 60 feet.

I'm not certain where you can purchase a floss tree, but perhaps one of the nurseries would be willing to put in a special order. If you are good at growing seed, Brudy's Tropical Exotics offers chorisia seeds. Their number is (800) 926-7333.

Cindy asks, I attended a recent flower show at the Petaluma Library. There was a purple flowering vine called Cobaea on display. Can you give me some information about this stunning vine?

Cobaea scandens is considered an annual vine when grown in our county. Most people know cobaea as the cup-and-saucer vine that can be easily grown from seed, is extremely vigorous and can reach a height of 25 feet in one season.

It prefers regular moisture, a sunny spot in the garden and protection from strong winds.

If you live in a mild micro-climate, that is sometimes called a "banana belt", the vine will live as a perennial and put out these stunning purple cup- and saucer-shaped blooms spring through fall.

Ted A. asks, the buds and flowers of my roses form well and look nice except for a few buds that bend over and turn brown. What is causing this problem?

It could be a rose curculio that is doing the damage. The adult is a red- to black-snouted beetle about ?-inch long, and it is the small white beetle larvae that chew the flower buds. Remove and destroy the damaged flower buds as a control measure.

The beetle has one generation per year and its larvae pupate and overwinter in the soil. By destroying the damaged bud you will break the reproduction cycle.

Garden tip: Planting one or more red-hot poker perennials (Kniphofia uvaria or Kniphofia hybrids) in the garden will attract Western tanagers and hummingbirds.

Dana Lozano is a horticultural garden consultant and designer. Gwen Kilchherr is an arborist, garden consultant, and horticulturist. They are partners in a Windsor horticultural consulting and design business, The Garden Doctors. Fax questions to them in care of the Press Democrat at 521-5343.

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