Seeing Red-A Public Service Announcement

July 6, 2009 056 (2)
A recent incident has us seeing red.
Shown above is Ruellia elegans ‘Ragin’ Cajun’

July 1, 2009 new camera 010 (2) Before we begin, let us step into the time machine and go backwards a week or so. Our annual beach vacation, planned oh so long in advance, was drawing near. The plastic storage tubs were packed with towels, sheets, and art supplies along with bathing suits and sunscreen. A last minute garden perusal showed the Belamcandas budding. There would be blooms upon the return to the Fairegarden, a highly anticipated event, this blooming. The first seeds had been planted several years ago, passalongs from good friend Laurie. The seedlings had been spread with diligence on the sunny sloping area to the side of the shed yearly. Nasella tenuissima, various Eryngium ssp. and Helenium ssp. that share this space have awaited the maturing Blackberry lilies to add verticality and late summer color to the mix. This will be the year when the plan comes to fruition. It will be a joyful return to the garden after a week of joyful reunion with family, lazy lollygagging and surf. July 27, 2009 2 012 (2)

The blooming Belamcandas did not disappoint.

July 6, 2009 024 (2) In the view from afar the flowers appear to be of orangey hues. Some are coral it is true, but most are a mix of reds with yellow streaking and red freckles. Last year there was one solid yellow, a rogue seedling that was greatly admired. So far no yellows have been seen though one may appear yet.

July 16, 2009 011 (2) But instead of reveling in the beauty of flowers and foliage as endless loads of laundry were done in the attempt to reset the mind and body to home rather than sand, sun and fun, we were slapped with a sorry state of affairs computerwise when we awoke the next morning after a late night arrival back at Casa Fairegarden.

Shown above is the new orienpet Lilium ‘Robert Swanson’. These were also given to the offspring with gardens last November. The colors were stated to be orange petals with a red center. Lovely, yes, but more yellow than orange to these poor eyes.

July 1, 2009 new camera 126 (2) The laptop had accompanied us to the beach to be used for the loading of the many photos taken by the family. We are a group of digital camera buffs, very attuned to the auto features of our equipment. Since this was a vacation with family, the internet provided with the rental house was not used by me, although others partook.

Shown above is the very intense Crocosmia ‘Lucifer’

July 12, 2009 027 (2) The first order of business at home was to begin watering the parched plants, especially the containers, for no rain had fallen in our absence. The internet could wait for it had already been a week since we were online, what’s a few more hours? Upon reentering the house after watering the most thirsty, both the cell phone and house phones were ringing. On the cell phone was Mr. Semi saying he had received an alarming email from me stating I was in England and was asking for money to be sent there. He read it aloud and said I needed to check it out. Ignoring the home phone still ringing with Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, Ode To Joy, in two rooms creating a nice stereo effect bouncing off the hardwood and tile flooring, I turned on the laptop and tried to sign in to the email account. I could not sign in, my password was not recognized. Okay, click on forgot password and change it, easy enough. It would not recognize me either, not the correct zip code or state.

Shown above is a second year seedling Dahlia ‘Bishop’s Children’.

July 27, 2009 2 006 (2) Panic was setting in, for my go to computer guru, The Financier was on the golf course and his cell phone, which would have been turned off while on the links anyway, gentlemen that he is, was sitting on the table next to me back at home. More phone calls from concerned friends and family, a big thanks to you all for alerting me by the way, helped my addled brain to figure out what had happened. Someone had gotten into my account and sent the offending message, using very poor grammar. Here is the message:


How are you doing? Hope all is well with you and your family, I am sorry I didn’t inform you about my traveling to England for a Seminar/conference.

I need a favor from you as soon as you receive this email, I misplaced my wallet on my way to the hotel where my money, and other valuable things were kept. Can you urgently assist me with a soft loan of $2,600 US Dollars to sort-out my hotel bills and get myself back home. You are the only one I can trust with this, please can this be between us? You have my word; I will refund you as soon as I return.

I will appreciate whatever you can afford, I’ll pay you back as soon as I return I promise, Let me know if you can assist, to enable me send you the details to use in sending the money through western union.

With gusto,


Shown above is Japanese blood grass, Imperata cylindrica, with the black berries of Aronia melanocarpa ‘Viking’.

July 6, 2009 048 (2) To the few that responded to the false Frances was sent this message:

“Thanks for your concern, I really appreciate your effort. Here are the details to use at the western union when sending the money to me.

Name : Frances XXXXXXXX
Address :#201,Kensington High St
Zip code : W8 4PT
State : London
Country :England

Please kindly help me to wire the money today and once you have it sent,send me the money transfer control number (mtcn) with details used in sending it. I wait to read from you as soon as you have it sent.

With gusto,


Shown above is Persicaria amplexicaulis ‘Firetail’ in a sea of Spiraea ‘Magic Carpet’.

July 11, 2009 130 (2) Many hours were spent on the phone with tech support individuals, most of whom had to follow a script no matter what was said on my end. All such conversations ended with the same result, a form had to be filled out online explaining what had happened. The problem of the form not recognizing me was solved with a series of click here, click here instructions and at one point someone in India taking over control of my computer, somewhat scary but utterly fascinating at the same time. On the fourth day access to my email account was finally successful. Except for a week’s worth of emails missing from my inbox, just vanished into thin air it seems, we are back to normal. Sort of. There have been changes made.

Shown above are Gomphrena haageana ‘Strawberry Fields’. The seed package said G. ‘Qis Carmine’ but that is disputed with proof in the flower color. Or maybe it is G. ‘Qis Red’. Either way, Veronica ‘Icicle’ blooms white at the back.

July 27, 2009 041 (2)

1. *The first order of business was to open another email account. That was the only way make the contact with the internet gods along with friends and family letting them know I was allright. If you do not have an alternate email account, open one now, or two.

2. *Change your password, making it as strong as possible. I believe that is how this ne’er do well was able to access my online address book. My password had not been changed in ten years. While it was considered strong when first decided upon, times have changed and the spambots have become much more sophisticated. Use odd letter combinations, numbers and the little oddball punctuation symbols liberally. Write it down somewhere in case you can’t remember it.

3. *Don’t use the same password for everything. Mix them up and change them periodically. Write them down with the username in case you can’t remember who you are to whom.

4. *Check your online address book and delete those contacts that do not know you well. Keep it to a minimum number to make it less attractive to those unscrupulous hackers looking for valid email addresses on which to perpetrate unspeakable requests for US dollars.

5. *Delete emails that are not absolutely necessary, both stored online and on your computer. I did not realize the file of sent emails stored on my computer would never go away until the memory was full. One of the lessons learned while chatting with Robbie in India while we waited for his procedures to scan each one of the thousands I had written in several years. I also learned that 5PM is 2:30 AM in Bangalore. They are all gone now and I will be on top of this in the future.

Shown above is the batface cuphea. Cuphea llavea is displaying a good illustration of facial expression made by the Fairegardener, minus the periodic arrrgghhhs and hair pulling in frustration as this wad of backlashed fishing line was untangled. The Financier was startled and alarmed by some of the utterances coming from the lazyboy after we were told to fill out the complaint form for the fourth time and then wait yet another 24 hours for the response. Why couldn’t they just fix it on the spot? They have unbelievable powers over us.

July 27, 2009 2 027 (2)

What is needed now is our moment of zen. Om. This is the universal mantra of truth. Chanting this mantra takes away everything.

I need to go buy some plants. With gusto.

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37 Responses to Seeing Red-A Public Service Announcement

  1. Interesting to see what happened when someone responded to the email address. Definite fraudulent phishing.

    Sorry that you were victimized. Doesn’t it feel a little like someone invaded your home and your privacy?

    Good advice you give.


    Hi Cameron, thanks for your post as well. We all need to be on our toes anymore, even though we might not want to be. The first day was the worst for me emotionally. I did feel violated and very angry. A friend who lives in London and received the email said the address was of a Starbucks. There is a Western Union station nearby also. No one fell for it though.

  2. Randy says:

    Well Frances, I had made my mind up I was going sell blood if I had to and rescue you from your dilemma! J/K It was pretty obvious the email wasn’t from you. I hate you had to deal with all that.

    I love you Randy. Would that have made you my blood brother? Thank goodness it didn’t come to that. It was a bother but happily no one sent money. The creep.

  3. Dave says:

    That email sounds very phishy so to speak. Hopefully no one was fooled. It just sounds so generic and form letter like. Beautiful pictures!

    Thanks, Dave. Phish is one of my favorite bands, but this kind I can do without.

  4. I totally ❤ Belamcanda. And that Dahlia is pretty awesome too.

    Your cautionary tale has led me to spend my entire morning (so far) changing the passwords on all the accounts I can remember having. I had previously been using the same password for everything, which I know they tell you not to do, but damn it, I have too many accounts to remember individual passwords for everything. So now I have separate passwords for everything, but I’ve written them all down on a list. Which they also tell you not to do. But, you know, damn it, there’s no way I’m going to be able to remember twenty different 10-character passwords without writing them down somewhere or using regular English words for them, and they tell you not to use regular English words too. So, a list it is.

    Thanks Mr. Sub. You are pretty funny and spot on about having trouble remembering these silly passwords and user names. Of course we have to write it down somewhere. Life has gotten complicated these last ten years. The Luddite school looks more attractive all the time. I used to be a member but dropped out when given my first digital camera.

  5. gittan says:

    I LOVE your mantra =) And I’m convinced that it’ll take away everything / kram gittan

    Thanks Gittan. I actually spent some quality time up at the zen garden during those four days. It helped.

  6. It’s crazy that the e-mail would have affected everything else!! I’m sorry this happened – very unnerving, to say the least. However, you tempered the news with your beautiful flowers – nice calming effect??. 🙂

    Thanks Shady. Coming home to the garden was still joyful and it needed me to water it. I do love standing there with the hose and losing myself in thought. Not as good as rainfall though. As for the email scam, it could have been much much worse. This was a nuisance.

  7. Darla says:

    That’s just terrible Frances…I read your post that said you were not in England…Okay, now, back to business, LOL…Your gardens look wonderful even in the heat. I did not realize how easily Ragin Cajun Ruellia rooted..I now have two..taa daa..and my crocosmia ‘lucifer’ is just about finished…

    Good to know about the Ragin Cajun, Darla, thanks. It is such a fabulous color too. Our Lucifer was finished before we left, but sprung a sprout in our absence that is blooming now. The other crocs are blooming now too. I just love them all. Heat tolerant is a must for us, just like in your garden.

  8. Hi Frances

    Pain in the backside for sure. At least (I hope) no one paid anything.

    That Blood grass looks really good em-masse. Do you water it much?


    Hi Rob, thanks. No one sent money, thank goodness. The blood grass is just wonderful here, not invasive at all but slowly spreads. I have to help it spread in fact. It gets no extra water, even with drought conditions here.

  9. tina says:

    That is a bummer for sure. I was seeing red and it wasn’t even my email. Good advice too.

    Hi Tina, thanks. I was finally able to see your last response and gave a big cheer. I hope he/she/it gets caught, but he probably will not. At least he came up empty handed for his efforts.

  10. Janet says:

    Man …what a pain!! I think I will delete a lot of the old email addresses for sure (just changed passwords) –you have been through a hassle and then some!

    Hi Janet, it really was a pain, if not dangerous or costly other than my time. I would advise everyone to at the least toughen up those passwords.

  11. Cindy, MCOK says:

    Frances, what an adventure! I’m glad the garden wasn’t affected by all these goings on. I’m disappointed that you’re not now signing all your posts “with gusto”, though!

    Leave it to you, Cindy to see this as an adventure! HA Only this post was signed off with gusto, it is still hard to laugh about it, but time will soothe the irritation like a salve.

  12. Rose says:

    Frances, this is not funny at all, but once again you have made a serious and scary situation somewhat humorous. I would have been very leery if I had received an e-mail like this from you, but the odd syntax would have alerted me something was amiss, and if not, the signing “with gusto” would have been the sure sign of fraud. Thanks for alerting us all–computer fraud of any kind is so scary and so difficult to correct. Go to your new Zen place and rake some gravel. So glad you have such beautiful flowers to help destress you as well. Taking a deep, cleansing breath with you,

    Ah Rose, the deep cleansing breath. Takes us back to another time and place, doesn’t it? HA No one thought that email was written by me, but some were confused by it. I posted it verbatim to alert others. Cameron has said that she has received the exact same message from other people too. Standard issue scam/spam. They could at least be a little more interesting in their word usage, right Ms. English teacher? 🙂

  13. Sue says:

    Thanks for the information. How am I ever going to delete the 600 some emails in my inboxes? I worked on it some the other day, but need to be more diligent.

    What a bothersome experience! I did enjoy the way you weaved it with what’s blooming in your yard. Your blooms look awesome!

    Now, what about using credit cards online? My husband does, and has had people get ahold of the accounts two different times, yet he just gets another card and does it again. At least we don’t have to pay for what we didn’t charge. I personally avoid using them altogether.

    Thanks again for helping us avoid what you went through.

    Thanks Sue. The purpose of posting about this crummy experience is to let others know the steps they can take to make their accounts safer. I do use credit cards online to buy stuff. Where I live, there are hardly any stores and online shopping makes perfect sense rather than driving all over creation looking. As you say, the card companies do not charge you for the purchases using stolen info either. I use Capital One and have been happy with their security. I believe the greater threat is from restaurants where your card is taken out of your sight and can be scanned for future use. Life is full of risks, isn’t it?

  14. Sue says:

    I forgot to thank you for the big laugh you gave me when you signed off with gusto. I hope you found some good bargains on plants. ;o)

    Thanks Sue. HA I did find a few plants to purchase. Not the best time of year to be planting, but that has never stopped me before.:-)

  15. Why DO we save all those emails, anyway? Right now The Havens computer is fairly clean, but that is because less than a year ago the old computer crashed one too many times and we purchased a new one. In the crash we lost a lot of information and have had to rebuilt our email address list, so right now there is NO ONE on it who we do not know well and love. And the email files are pretty well cleaned out.

    That password advice is pretty good; maybe we’ll actually take it. Unfortunately, we tend to like our password(s) because while they are not easy to figure out they are meaningful to us and so not hard to remember. And the are “secure” passwords too.

    Your post was beautiful. I love batfaced cuphea and have actually grown it from seed here because I could not find it at our local nurseries. Cuphea is an annual in this zone, but worth the trouble in my book. Our crocosmia has been done for a couple of weeks, and the Blackberry lilies (belemcandas) are almost finished. Mine are all very orange though, I’d love to have that red cultivar. I must look for it, do you know its name?

    Hi Hands, it sounds as though you are on top of the situation, computerwise. Nothing like a crash to clean things out! The Belamcanda is from a straight species growing in my friend Laurie’s NE TN garden. We have had variations in the seedlings sometimes, like that one yellow. No names though, sorry. I was shopping today at our local nursery, Mouse Creek and she had many of these blooming. I almost bought a solid yellow, but know that the seedlings are not stable colorwise. I would look for one in bloom that you like, then divide it. I like the redder ones too, and the ones with no spots, well all of them. Last year the Cuphea ignea overwintered here. I was so happy, that we bought all the cultivars Mouse Creek had, including the Bat Face. It has been the best bloomer of the lot. Hope it returns, but if not, I will buy more and grow them as annuals. They laugh in the face of the drought and heat.

  16. You poor baby. What a PIA. I still want to know what MSN had to say about someone hacking into their e-mail. The security problem may be just as much their fault as the random fluke that nabbed you.

    Thanks for the sympathy and calls, Christopher. MSN said that my password was too soft, plain and simple. My fault, not theirs, in other words. I accept that and have changed the password, twice. But still feel like it could happen again. I will be quite more aware now, and not take anything for granted. If it is important to you, print it out and keep it in a safe place.

  17. Ugh! What an awful experience! I have had similar issues where my e-mail is hijacked and much chaos ensues. I’m glad everything is getting worked out, and you should definitely buy some plants to alleviate stress!!

    Hi Rose, I am so sorry that you have experienced this malicious attack too. It is such a hassle, but no harm was done it seems, luckily. The plant therapy was just the thing too. That and having it all working again. 🙂

  18. Dreamybee says:

    So sorry to hear about this! What a terrible welcome home. 😦 Has anyone followed up on the address that was given for the money wire? I would assume that whoever did this was actually hoping to lure somebody into sending some actual money. Sometimes criminals do dumb things, like give out their home addresses!

    Thanks, Dreamybee. A friend who lives in London said the address was a Starbucks. It does seem ridiculous to imagine anyone falling for such an obvious scam and sending the money. But some people must do it or why would they keep making the effort? Lowlife.

  19. Dear Frances, I’ve never heard anything like it! It is amazing how rude and malicious people can be…Thnak you so much for all advice, I really do have to look into my stuff.
    I hope everything are ok now.
    xoxo Tyra

    Thanks Tyra. I am glad you have never been affected by something like this and hope you never are. We are back to normal now, but I am ever on guard for things to go awry. Take nothing for granted is another lesson here. I do appreciate your kind words.

  20. mothernaturesgarden says:

    What a distressing experience, Frances! I’m glad all is well. Thanks for the tips. I do admire the blood grass for I have tried it several times to no avail.

    Hi Donna, thanks so much. We are back and running now, thank goodness. As for your failure with the blood grass, all I can think of is not good enough drainage. It loves the dry slopes here but too much water will spell its doom.

  21. Patsi says:

    You were really put through the ringer.
    Not sure how I woulkd have handled it.

    Thanks for the sympathy, Patsi. There weren’t that many options open. Contact the server and wait for them to help. There is still nothing I can do to catch the person who did it. He will probably never get caught, but hopefully doesn’t get any money sent either. Hey, buster, get a real job!!!

  22. Crumbs! No wonder you saw red Frances, what a nightmare. Glad everything is all right now.

    Crumbs indeed, YE. Things are back to normal now. That’s the way I like it too.

  23. Phillip says:

    So scary to read about (this was suspenseful, have you ever thought about writing mysteries? LOL) Anyway, so I am to understand that this person hacked into your email by guessing your password? And they knew your full name and everything? Yikes!

    HA Phillip, thanks! That seems to be what MSN thought, too soft a password. My fault. I guess my name showed up automatically when they used the account. Frightening, isn’t it?

  24. Racquel says:

    I’m so sorry that this happened to you, but thanks for the words of wisdom for the rest of us. Great shots of red in the garden today. It’s such a striking color & I’m always a bit confused on how to combine it with other colors.

    Thanks, Racquel. I hope the least anyone gets out of this is to tighten up their passwords. I used to avoid red in the garden, but now know how much it can add, even just a dollop here and there. Really draws the eye.

  25. lotusleaf says:

    Scary experience! Thanks for the words of wisdom. I’m glad somebody from my city helped you out.Your flowers are lovely.

    Hi Lotusleaf, thanks and welcome. Robbie was most helpful and was a step above the regular tech service agents. He was a resolution specialist. I told him I needed to be resolved and he laughed when he got on the line. We were on the phone for over two hours.

  26. Vw says:

    How frustrating, Frances. I’m glad you were able to figure it out, despite obstinate tech service. I get so frustrated when customer service people have such strong foreign accents that I can’t understand them well. Well, I’m off to do some housecleaning in my email account!

    Thanks, VW. Glad to hear you are acting on this. Sometimes we just take it easy and figure nothing can happen to us. That was my attitude and it was a mistake. True, not all of the techs were equally helpful. Some were very helpful though and I am grateful to all.

  27. Lola says:

    How awful all this had to happen to you Frances. But I’m glad you have a handle on it now. I hope they catch the perpetrator.
    Love the beautiful flowers you have. My “Lucifer” has not bloomed in 2 yrs. Not even the new one bloomed. I have them in pots so I know where they are till I get ready to put them in their proper place.
    So much rain this yr. has put a damper to all.

    Thanks Lola. Water under the bridge now, thank goodness. Sounds like your Lucifer might need dividing. I read that helps with blooming and have divided mine every fall. Sorry you have had too much rain. We feel lucky to get what has been falling here after two years of drought. The plants like it too.

  28. Weeping Sore says:

    Sorry about the e-mail fiasco. This interweb stuff is fraught with danger as well as beauty – just like your post.

    Thanks WS. It is a jungle out there. 🙂

  29. Go for the gusto – I’m glad you got that all figured out. Sorry you had to deal with that mess.

    Thanks MMD. Yes to the gusto, it was hard to not have access to the email account. I lost more than a weeks messages, never saw them. Don’t know if the hacker or MSN deleted them or not. Oh well. Onward and upward.

  30. ricki says:

    There is a very funny scene in a play called Juno and the Paycock, where they are trying to figure out how to use a telephone. I often feel that way trying to navigate the world of cyberspace.
    Love your red Belamcanda. Mine is ‘Hello Yellow’, and what I most like about it is the architecture of the stems and leaves. Maybe if I allow it to go to seed there will be more and more?

    Hi Ricki, nice to see you. I have some tips for anyone trying to get throught the maze of msn tech support, say next as soon as she starts the sentence, you don’t have to wait for her to finish. Saves lots of time. I learned this after the third time. As for the Belamcanda, oh yes it will seed. The common name, blackberry lily comes from those pretty seeds. I have sown them both fresh and saved the next spring with good results. Bury them in a trench about an inch deep so you know they are not weeds. Good luck!

  31. Jean says:

    Love the “with gusto” salutation! Did you ever figure out how they hacked into your email account? That’s the scariest part to me. Love all the red, btw.

    Thanks, Jean. It seems my password was too *soft*. A real word, rather than random symbols, letters and numbers. That has been fixed, now to be able to remember it. 🙂

  32. OT Frances thanks for your comment on the meadah thingy. When I first heard him sing I thought There’s a bright golden haze on the what?!!!! I’d never heard meadow procounced like that before but as I’m not an expert on accents from the States I was unsure whether I was right or not. It seems I was. 😉

    HA YE, that is the weirdest version of meadow I have ever heard. Loved your post too. 🙂

  33. Pam/Digging says:

    Oh, I do love red in the garden (I’m drooling over your blood grass, but too hot in Austin for it, I bet). But I was seeing red on your behalf after that email, Frances, and it was not a good feeling. Still, you’ve made lemonade out of the situation with this beautiful and humorous post. Onward and upward indeed!

    And you use red so well, Pam. I am just now adding it little by little. It really adds to the dark foliage of the black garden, along with orange. Kind of a Hallowe’en look. Thanks for those kind words, your posts are always an inspiration to me so that means a lot. 🙂

  34. nancybond says:

    I received the “forgotten wallet” email too, Frances, reported the offender to abuse@msn… and received a note back shortly thereafter that the account had been closed. 🙂

    Your reds are spectacular! (As is everything else in your beautiful garden.)

    Thanks, Nancy. I appreciate your quick reporting to shut that creep down before he could do any more damage. As it is, only a weeks worth of emails were lost, guess there was nothing that important in them. The comments were on the wordpress site, so I didn’t miss any of those thank goodness. Thanks for those kind words about the garden. It is a jungle right now, normal for this time of year. 🙂

  35. Siria says:

    Hi Frances! I am out of town and was just checking my email from my husband’s computer and saw that I had an email from you. I was wondering what you might be writing me about when I read your email about having lost your wallet in England. I knew you had just been to the beach, and it sure sounded pretty “phishy” to me. I didn’t have your email with me to send you a note as it is at home, but found this post when I came to check on your blog. I am so sorry you went through this awful experience! It angers me to think of all these people “phishing” and trying to rip people off. Sounds like you got everything straightened out though. When I get home I am going to change all my passwords for sure! Your photos were stunning…as usual!

    Hi Siria, so sorry you received that vile email. My email was blocked so I didn’t receive the responses anyway, and many were lost in the process of getting ownership back to my account. I posted immediately that I Was Not In England so people might know it wasn’t me asking for money. Thank goodness the blog was still accessible. Thanks for the kind words and I hope you are enjoying your travels. I would agree that changing passwords is a good idea.

  36. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    Yes, I nearly fell out of my chair when I read “with Gusto”. What a sham. I hate that you had to deal with such a thing. It is a lesson for us all.

    Thanks Lisa. Most everyone who received that message knew it wasn’t me. Glad to have it behind me, and there were lessons learned that I felt needed to be passed along.

  37. Tatyana says:

    Thank you Frances! I’ll certainly should go clean my e-mails. It was very nice of you to warn all of us! Your garden is an inspiration for me.

    Hi Tatyana, it was my goal to let others know of things to make their computers more secure. Not that I am techy in the least, but the password thing is something we can all do.

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