Springtime Q & A

Bleeding heart flower (Dicentra Spectabils)
If your bleeding hearts look dead in the summer, don't dig them up. They're likely just sleeping.

I really don’t have any faith that it will actually seem like spring by the time you read this. But even if we are enduring blizzards come April, it will help to dream about gardening. So, in that spirit, here are answers to some of the questions I got from readers over the winter.

Q: Can you name a few good annual vines that will grow quickly?

I sure can. Topping my list would be morning glories. You’ll find them in a range of colors. I love that they open early in the morning and then close by midday. Hyacinth bean can be harder to find, but this old-fashioned, twining vine produces lovely sweet-smelling purple blooms and long, curvy seed pods that kids love to pick in the fall. (I save the seeds for replanting in the spring.) If you haven’t tried black-eyed Susan vine, do it this year and you’ll be hooked. Great on a trellis or in hanging baskets, this vine is covered with dainty yellow blooms all season. Cardinal climber, with its trumpet-shaped red flowers that hummingbirds love, is another good choice.

Q: Is there anything deer won’t eat?

Deer will eat anything if they’re hungry enough, so everything’s pretty much a buffet in the winter. In warmer months, they will pass on things they don’t like so much, particularly plants that are spiky, scented or spicy tasting. Some of those plants are lavender, hellebore, boxwood, daffodils, ornamental grasses, Siberian iris and sage.

Q: Are there any hostas that will do well in the sun?

Yes! One of the positive things about living in our climate is that many hostas that would burn up elsewhere do just fine in sunny spots here. The key is to provide a bit more TLC in the form of water, nutrient-rich soil and a nice layer of mulch. Even with all that love, you may still see some leaf browning when it really gets hot. But if you’re all right with that, some good varieties to choose from include “Guacamole,” “Krossa Regal,” “Royal Standard,” “August Moon,” “Sum and Substance” and “Sun Power.”

Q: Why do my bleeding hearts die in the summer?

Well, I hope you didn’t dig them up because they were likely just sleeping, not dead. Old-fashioned bleeding hearts (Dicentra spectabilis) go dormant by mid-summer. That means you’ll first see them turning yellow, then brown and then they’ll pretty much die back to the ground. To hide the unsightly hole they leave behind, plant something close by that will leaf out fully around the same time the bleeding hearts say goodbye for the season. Hostas, astilbe and lady’s mantle are all good candidates for that job.

Q: Why do my cucumbers sometimes grow in a C shape rather than straight?

Weirdly shaped cucumbers are a common issue for gardeners. Hot, dry weather during fruit set can be a problem. Or your soil might need more nutrients. Pollination could have been poor for some reason. To help, try your best to keep plants watered well and improve your soil with lots of organic matter, like compost. If you think water and soil are not the issue, try improving pollination by planting things bees love nearby. You can also try hand-pollinating plants using a Q-tip or a very small paint brush. There are lots of YouTube videos that demonstrate the simple technique.

Q: How can I help protect snapping turtle eggs at Lake Harriet this summer?

Actually, that question didn’t come in. I’m asking it of you, dear readers. Last summer I wrote about how, in June, snapping turtles come ashore to lay eggs on the beach at the north end of Lake Harriet. Once the mom turtles go back into the water, those eggs mostly wind up destroyed by people who don’t realize they’re just beneath the sand and dogs who eat them. This June, I’d like to try to see about moving some of those eggs out of harm’s way. I’m not sure where to start, but I’ll be looking into it soon and I could use a few more people to help me do whatever it is we’re going to do. If you’d like to help, please send me an email via my website below. Many thanks.

Meleah Maynard is a Minneapolis-based writer and editor who blogs at Livin’ Thing