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    Questions are answered by master gardeners at the UC Cooperative Extension services in Sacramento and Placer counties.

    Send questions to Garden Detective, P.O. Box 15779, Sacramento, CA 95852. Send email to h& Please put “Garden Detective” in the subject field and include your postal address.

    To contact your UC Extension directly, call:

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Garden Detective: Finding the right vine for a specific location

Published: Saturday, Aug. 10, 2013 - 12:00 am
Last Modified: Saturday, Aug. 10, 2013 - 12:47 am

I need a vine that will handle full sun, but for only part of the year.

I have a U-shaped house with the patio between the wings, facing north. I have old, woody, unsuccessful honeysuckle in a half-barrel and large planter on the east wing of the patio.

In summer, this wall is shaded in the morning, but in hot afternoon sun. In winter, part of this wall receives no sun at all.

Whatever I have tried over the past 40 years has failed. I would like a vine that will help cut the glare into the western wing of the house from the patio. Is this a hopeless quest?

– Margaret MacDonald, Yuba City

According to UC master gardener Annie Kempees, the selection of plants that will thrive in your patio’s conditions – shade in the early part of the day and hot sun in the afternoon, then no sun at all in the winter – are few. Have you considered placing the container on wheels and moving it into sunlight during the winter months?

There is a very popular vine that may tolerate the growing conditions you have. Bougainvillea is an evergreen shrubby vine native to South America. Normally, this vine thrives in full sun all day. It is, however, frost-sensitive and should be grown where it will have winter protection, such as under the eaves of a house.

If it survives a couple of winters in your area in a protected location, it should do well for many years in Zone 8, where you are located.

The Sunset Western Garden Book has complete information on bougainvillea’s heat and cold hardiness, different colored bracts and flowers and planting and pruning requirements.

UC Davis ecology professor Arthur Shapiro added some expert observations on paper wasps. In the July 20 Home & Garden section, Allannah Stratton of Roseville had asked the Garden Detective about what she thought might be digger bees in her lawn.

“The critters buzzing over her lawn are very likely the European paper wasp – Polistes dominula,’’ Shapiro said. ‘‘We have been studying its impact on caterpillars hereabouts and will be submitting a paper shortly.”

‘‘Not too many people are aware of its presence as a distinct entity and a new addition to our fauna,’’ he said.

‘‘Though it has been in this area for some time, P. dominula has ‘exploded’ in the past three years, appearing in many new places and often in very high numbers,’’ Shapiro noted. ‘‘The reason I think it’s Ms. Stratton’s critter is that its typical modus operandi is to fly an inch or two above mowed turf, occasionally diving down into the grass. What it’s doing is harvesting caterpillars, which are its principal food source – usually the grass-feeding fiery skipper, Hylephila phyleus, but also noctuid cutworms like Leucania unipuncta.

‘‘The density can reach two to three wasps per square yard of turf,’’ he added. ‘‘High densities are localized. I know of such populations right now in part of Gold River in Rancho Cordova and in the industrial park off Power Inn Road near Belvedere Avenue.’’

Shapiro also has seen the European paper wasp in Rocklin and Roseville. It’s been reported as high up in the Sierra as Emigrant Gap above 5,000 feet elevation.

‘‘The wasps rarely if ever penetrate wildlands,’’ he noted. ‘‘They are largely confined to the vicinity of human structures. They build their open-comb nests mostly under eaves.

‘‘The nests are smaller (with fewer cells) than those of our other paper wasps, but often occur at high density, several under one eave.’’

These paper wasps seem to have a pattern where they’ll be ‘‘very abundant for two or three years, then collapsing and becoming scarce or ‘disappearing’ themselves,’’ Shapiro said. ‘‘We don’t know what drives this or whether it will become cyclic.’’

European paper wasps resemble yellow jackets ( Vespula), but have a longer, tapering abdomen. They also act differently.

‘‘Unlike yellow jackets … these wasps are not routinely attracted to sugary material such as soda cans or sweets, nor do they frequent roadkill,’’ Shapiro said. ‘‘The standard yellow jacket trap doesn’t seem to attract them. They are very largely caterpillar-eaters, though they do visit flowers and eat pollen. They are not nearly so aggressive as yellow jackets. I have yet to be stung by one.

‘‘They seem able to overwinter very well here most years and can become active earlier in late winter than other wasps. Their activity seems to diminish in very hot weather.’’

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