Roots 'n' Shoots: January 2017

Why is RnS Moving to

Google had brought out an algorithm update in May 2017. With previous updates like Panda or Penguin, Mr G had penalized blogs or websites with low quality content and those more focused on aggressive adverts (including multiple ads or pop-up ads in articles). However, many blogs/websites that weren't shady got penalized beyond recovery too and a lot of people lost their income. The May 2017 update has had wide-scale effect on blogs and websites, but without any explanation from Mr G as to why or what it does. RnS has been hit by it too and hard. RnS organic search stats (i.e. users from Google) have dropped by 75% since. Even though RnS is not a source of income, I tried to figure out why RnS is being culled. It seems that it doesn't really have anything to do with RnS per se, but likely because RnS is FREE and not paying for page ranking (via AdWords or Ad Ranking). Now it is likely being aggressively shoved to lower page rankings to accommodate the paid ads.

I cannot rely on Mr G anymore to get RnS' content where it is needed. So I am busy moving RnS to Wordpress where you can find me as Whisker Flowers @

I am also imposing 301 redirects from already moved posts and pages!

- The Shroom - (AKA Whisker Flowers)

Friday, 6 January 2017

Bees for Jam

I had to post this because I thought it was really awesome. Here the honey bees are enjoying a feeding frenzy on some partially used jam cups set out by the Wimpy and Café Fino at the Retail Crossing in Roodepoort. I think it is a wonderful idea: the bees stay out of the customers’ hair and the restaurants get some use of non-reusable food items!

Bees feeding on jam set out by Wimpy, Retail Crossing, Roodepoort

Bees feeding on jam set out by Café Fino, Retail Crossing, Roodepoort

Good on them!

Sunday, 1 January 2017

New Year Post: International Year Events 2017 & Garden Update

Usually with the New Year’s post I feature the UN ‘international year of’ theme. This year the theme is Sustainable Tourism for Development – aaannndd, I had no idea how to relate that to gardening. So let’s take a quick look at the key features of this year as per the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) set by the UN:

“SDG 8: Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all;

SDG 12: Sustainable Consumption and Production and

SDG 14: Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development.”

So I found these a bit vague 😩, but the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) website has provided a bit more clarity on the matter:

“The #IY2017 will promote tourism’s role in the following five key areas:

(1)        Inclusive and sustainable economic growth
(2)        Social inclusiveness, employment and poverty reduction
(3)        Resource efficiency, environmental protection and climate change
(4)        Cultural values, diversity and heritage
(5)        Mutual understanding, peace and security”

I am also disappointed at the infographics and promotional stuff for this year - most of the stuff is in PDF format which does not embed properly in blogger. Instead here is the link to some of the UNWTO fact sheets. Then I had a brain wave 😎. I have been to two of the National Botanical Gardens of South Africa as well as the Montreal Botanical Garden in Canada. Seeing that these would fall under the key areas of 3 & 4 I thought I would share some of the photos I took while visiting these. Each is spectacular in their own right as they cover different biomes and natural habitats. Here they are:

Walter Sisulu National Botanical Gardens (Witwatersrand, South Africa)

Walter Sisulu National Botanical Garden, South Africa
Highveld Biome
Woohoo! Panorama 😂 (oh hello and the new blogger update has given us symbols and emoji ! - welcome to 2017 Google Blogger!). For now on expect copious amounts of them! 😈 Anyways, here I tried to give the general impression of our highveld biome, which is classified as a savannah grassland (sparse trees in a open flat grassland). Walter Sisulu also sports a waterfall!

Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden (Cape Town, South Africa)

Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens, South Africa
Fynbos Biome
Kirstenbosch is a lot more lush, since they have a milder climate than the highveld and aren't to far from the coast which means the area is fairly humid. The fynbos biome is unique to the Western Cape, which includes a lot of plants from the Ericaceae family. The fynbos is well known for its Proteas (right bottom is the Pincushion Protea).

Montreal Botanical Garden (Quebec, Canada)

I was very fortunate to be afforded the opportunity to go to Canada to present some of my scientific work at a conference there. We had a day off from science and I took the chance to visit the Botanical Gardens (it was so worth it! 😄).

Montreal Botanical Garden
This is the entrance area - I would say that the Montreal Botanical Garden is twice (maybe three?) times the size of ours. It is huge - I spent a whole day here and I didn't walk all the way through. They had a fantastic Insectarium (unfortunately all the photos are very dark and low quality)... 😞

Montreal Botanical Garden
Biodiversity Centre

Not too far from the entrance is a large glasshouse where each section has exact climate control to promote the growth of biome-specific plants. I remember as you walk into a new section you can feel the temperature and humidity changes as well as all the wonderful plant and soil smells! Top left is the epiphyte section (air plants), very humid and hot. Top right is the tropical and spices section. Bottom left is the arid biome and on the right is the bonsai section... I could meditate in there the whole day 😌

Montreal Botanical Garden
Japanese Gardens
Beautiful! Oh, goodness - happy times 💖 This is across the walkway next to the rose gardens (I no took photos of rose garden... had to prioritise sections and I am not a big fan of roses anyways...). And the Canadian air is so clean! You literally smell the fresh air when you get off the plane! Makes for very clear sky pictures too! Bottom left is the Japanese Tea Garden - another place to sit in the whole day.

Montreal Botanical Gardens
Food, Monastery and Alpine gardens
Lastly. I included the squash vertical garden (left) as well as the Monastery garden (herbs) and the native Montreal Alpine Biome garden. I quite like the rocky, low growing look of the Alpine garden. After all these gorgeous pictures, I am afraid the rest of the post will seem a bit, meh... 😊

Garden Update

The garden had experienced some lingering effects of the drought we have had for the last two seasons. Some of the plots remain bare in the main garden, but the garden in the vegetable cage is doing really well. I moved the squash back into the vegetable cage (since the main garden was mostly planted with tomatoes, carrot and beet) and they are looking fantastic – hopefully we’ll be able to keep the fruit flies off of them this way too. 

Left is the main garden (top) and insectary (bottom).
Right is the vegetable cage (top) and alfalfa with dodder infestation (bottom).

Most of South Africa has seen a good deal of rain since November, but Roodepoort hadn’t seen much. I think we received the best Christmas gift because since the 24th we have had rain on an off with long stretches of overcast weather– maybe the illusive “La Nina” has finally started? (Read more at The Shoom's Weather report 2015/2016).

Furthermore, the alfalfa (lucerne) patch we started way back in 2013 has grown beyond its initial designated bed and is slowly spreading outwards. The chickens graze on them during the summer and do not care so much for them, but come winter they chickens eat them to the ground – which was the idea since the alfalfa is high in protein (18%) as a supplement for the chickens since insects are scarce in winter. The alfalfa has been mostly looking after themselves, we had to water them during the drought to prevent all of them dying and now it seems the dodder (Cuscuta species) have decided to move into the patch. Dodder is a parasitic plant (that’s why they are yellow, they have no chlorophyll and cannot photosynthesise)  that quickly engulfs whole areas of plants in a yellow tangled mass that reminds me of the ‘Red Weed’ from Wars of the World. I have found that the only way to get rid of it is to cut the host plant to the ground and then chuck the infested leaves on a bare area of soil in the sun (no plants close by) and to let it die there. Some dodder biology below - what a insult: "You're such a Dodder!" LOL! 😅

Dodder (Cuscata species) biology

Other updates include as I mentioned with my B-day post that I will be posting once a month now so that I remain sane as I move towards the seemingly endless stretch of finalising my PhD. The blog holiday was a well needed break, since I have come up with a whole list of new post concepts for the next year. As per usual - stay tuned for more ramblings and garden shenanigans as Roots ‘n’ Shoots moves into its 5th year of article postings!

Ta – Ta For Now!

The Shroom

Previous related posts:

Want to see what it looked like last year (2015)? See: New Year Post 2016 & Garden Updates

Want to see what it looked like in 2014? See: New Year Post 2015 & Garden Updates

Want to see what it looked like in 2013? See: New Year Post & Garden Updates 2014

Want to see what it looked like originally? See: About: This Blog


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