Q I'd like to plant a climbing plant in an area that receives very little sun. I'd prefer something with flowers and preferably, scent, but I don't like Dutchman's pipe (Aristolochia tomentosa.)

A That's a tall order. Few vines bloom in shade, and those that do bloom sparsely or produce flowers that aren't all that showy.

My best suggestion is to ditch the desire for flowers and settle for attractive foliage instead. Then your options would include Boston ivy (Parthenocissus tricuspidata), Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia) or Englemann ivy (Parthenocissus quinquefolia 'Englemannii'), a more refined version of Virginia creeper with smaller leaves. All three have green foliage in summer, but turn various shades of red in autumn. They produce tiny, insignificant flowers followed by small blue-black, inedible berries.

Feeding trees

Q How can I tell if my trees need to be fertilized? If they do need to be fertilized, when is the best time to do so?

A If you fertilize your lawn regularly, your trees shouldn't need additional fertilizer.

However, you can check your trees in spring to see if they're putting on new growth. With about 6 inches or more of new growth, no fertilization is needed. If the trees put on 2 inches or less, they may need to be fertilized. Pale or off-color foliage also can be a good indicator that your trees need a boost, especially when discoloration is coupled with slow growth.

Trees put on most of their new growth in spring. After that, they continue to grow much more slowly through the summer. It's best to fertilize early enough so that nutrients are in the soil, available for the roots to take in, when the trees are growing most actively. Ideally, that would be after the soil has thawed, but before trees start their growth spurt, which would typically be late April or early May in the Twin Cities area.

Deb Brown is a garden writer and former extension horticulturist with the University of Minnesota. To ask her a gardening question, call 612-673-7793 and leave a message. She will answer questions in this column only.