Trumpet vine will summon hummingbirds
We are planting flowers this year near our deck area that are favored by hummingbirds because we had quite a few at our feeders last summer. We have lattice work on the sunny side of our deck that could support a vine. What vine would attract hummingbirds?
Scarlet trumpet vine is a favorite of hummingbirds. This vine, however, takes four to five years before it is established well enough to produce flowers. Dropmore honeysuckle is also liked by hummers and will flower the first year of planting.
Are there some small flowering trees that will do well in the shade? We have some large shade trees in the back and would like a nice flowering under-story tree there.
Try redbud, pagoda dogwood or magnolia. Redbud and magnolia are borderline in hardiness here (rated to Zone 5), but if your backyard is very protected from north and west winds, they can do quite well. These plants will do well if the shade there is light shade; if shade is dense they will produce few flowers.
Also, any low, interfering branches on your established trees should be removed. This should be done soon now before new growth begins.
I have a seed catalog that offers praying mantis. They claim that by letting these hungry guys lose in the garden they will eat all the aphids, mites and mealy bugs. Does this work?
Not very well. If you don’t have an insect population large enough to support them, they will move elsewhere or starve. Even when you have a good food source for them, they quickly destroy the population, either disperse or starve, and the next generation of pests goes to work on your garden again. Praying mantis do not occur natively north of Chicago. Introductions like this are generally not very beneficial.
Recently a raccoon has found our bird feeders and empties them almost ever night. One feeder he has destroyed. What can I do for this problem?
I would suggest you catch the raccoon in a live trap and either relocate or dispatch the critter (they are easy to trap — set an open can of sardines in the trap), or mix a product called "Squirrel Away" in your bird food. This product contains hot, cayenne pepper and although birds like it just fine, rodents and mammals don’t care for it at all. Mix Squirrel Away two or even three times normal strength so your raccoon really gets a good shot of it to discourage him.