Inula Royleana
Midwest Gardening
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Rabbits, Deer and Moles:

from Michelle:

Can I find any ideas or hints on what do do about those pesky rabbits that are making a smorgasbord out of my shrubs?

from Kellie:

Need information on deer, rabbits, moles, and plant eating menaces of the garden.

Controlling Rabbits / Controlling Deer

This has to be the number one problem gardeners deal with in many areas.  Controlling rabbits and deer, and minimizing their damage, is usually the best we can do.

The most effective control is fencing.  To keep rabbits out, fencing must be high enough to prevent them from jumping over - 3 feet should do, maybe 4-5 feet if you have jackrabbits like we do.  And the fence, not just the posts, should be buried up to 6 inches to prevent them from digging under.  To keep the deer out, a top would be necessary, or the fence should be 10-12 feet high - they are amazing jumpers.   For most gardeners, this is only practical for a small garden, usually our vegetables.

Where fencing out the deer and rabbits is not practical, a combination of methods is generally most effective.  Applying blood meal to the soil surface is effective, but gone with the rain, therefore expensive.  Hair trimmings they seem to get used to pretty quickly.   Deer Off spray, by Havahart, can be sprayed directly on plants, and deters nibblers with a bad odor and taste (basically rotten eggs).  It can be sprayed on vegetables up to 2 weeks before harvest, and the vegetables should be washed.  Deer & Rabbit Repellent by Liquid Fence is a similar product, but seems a bit more effective, perhaps because it is more foul in odor then Deer Off.  Either product should be sprayed quite heavily weekly at first, not only on the plants but on soil and/or objects surrounding your garden, or your yard perimeter, creating a “liquid” fence that may deter critters from approaching the garden in the first place.   Every 3-4 weeks thereafter.  However, just as my snap peas begin to form, or my lilies are about to burst open I give those plants a good dose so the critter who takes a bite will associate the plant with a bad taste.  Be aware that these sprays may damage the petals of blooms.  The sprays can also be effective on tree and shrub trunks if applied from fall to spring.

Alas, the spray alone will not do the job.  Both rabbits and deer may keep tasting, hoping the next one will taste better.  One morning you will discover something took one bite of every single thing in your garden.  So let’s get back to keeping them out of the garden in the first place.  Along with spray, you need a predator.  If you have a dog that roams the yard, that will help.  But our urban and suburban critters have figured out that our dogs are not exactly vicious predators, and that they are in the house overnight.  A family of deer used to stand across the street every night, in full view, waiting until our dog went out for the last time each night.  When they were sure she was safely inside for the night, it was dinnertime for the deer!  So I supplemented our “predator” with another predator - coyote urine.  It helped with the rabbits, but didn’t do much to slow the deer down, so I solicited the advice of a trapper and hunter.  He said, “you need cat urine, BIG cat urine!”  Mountain Lion pee seems to be quite effective!  They are a NATURAL predator of deer, and the deer know it.  I apply it to felt hang tags and hang it in bushes or low in trees, about every 6-10 feet along the perimeter where the deer enter, and here and there throughout my property (they avoided that perimeter for a while, walked down the street (!) to come in on the other side of the yard!).  I also dribble a little on boulders and the vegetable garden wall.  Keep in mind you are trying to replicate the way a cat marks it’s territory.   Try not to open the bottle in the garage, the smell will knock you right over.  And don’t invite visitors to stroll your garden right after you apply, the odor is unbelievable.  You can order a variety of predator urine from or

Readers!  what has worked for you?

Controlling Moles and Voles

This one is not much easier than the rabbits and deer.  If you are willing to do it, the only really effective way to control moles is trapping.  Easier said than done for the inexperienced, so hiring a mole expert is the way to go.  And from what I understand, the good ones are GOOD, and will guarantee to come back if the moles come back (which they will).  But if you prefer to spend a lot less money and try it yourself, try the Victor spear type trap or the Victor scissor (Out-o-sight) trap for deep tunnels.  You’ll be experienced in no time.

Certainly you have heard that they are after the grubs in your yard, so you apply grub poison.  Well, they do like grubs, but are just as happy eating earthworms so your problem has not been solved.  They also really love “loose” moist soil for tunneling, but are not really bothered by tunneling through rock hard clay.  They are born to tunnel after all.  I have tried the soil sprays, such as Mole Stop by Spectracide.  You attach the bottle/sprayer to your hose and soak down the problem area, then water it in well.  The moles seem to leave, moving to another area.  Given the choice, I prefer they dig in my lawn rather than the landscaping where they damage roots and bulbs.  It is also possible the spray did not work, and the moles just moved on, they tend to be rather transient.

There are hundreds of “home remedy” ideas out there from chewing gum to “gassing” the tunnels.  I have never really heard definitively that any of them work.  What do you say Readers, do any of them really work?

Plant Identification

Hi!  I was wondering if you could help ID this plant for me. I attached a picture of the flowers and of the whole plant.   We inherited it with our house and moved it from a neglected garden area.  it is not blooming well... I am guessing because we have it in the wrong place!


missy m.

plant identification
plant identification2


With minimal information it is always hard to be sure, but it looks to be a weigela, probably 'Pink Princess'.  It is difficult to tell with only 2 tiny blooms and it appears to be a young plant.  If you inherited the plant, I would expect a weigela to be more mature and quite woody.  Weigela typically bloom quite prolifically in spring to early summer, but do need full sun.  With at least 6 hours sun and fertilized in early spring a Weigela should be blooming as below from late spring to early summer.  Do NOT prune in spring or you lose flowering.  Prune right after blooming is finished in summer to keep the plant compact and encourage spring flowering.  If you don't think your plant is weigela, tell me more.

The Ordinary Gardener

Pink Princess Weigela

I think you are 100% right!  I saw there are dwarf varieties of the pink princess, maybe that it why it is so small.  also, it is in full sun but close to the house so maybe it gets less sun than I think.....will move it in the fall.
Thanks so much for your help!

Questions about Potted Roses

I need to know if a rose bush can be put into a planting pot. We are moving and we want to take out rose bushes and there is no place to put them. So we were wondering if they will live in a pot.



Roses are tougher than you think, and with the proper care your roses can do quite well potted temporarily if not indefinitely.  Check the transplanting instructions which still apply here,  If you need to keep the roses in a container for a long period, also check watering and feeding instructions for potted roses,

If your roses are large you will need a very large container (requirements also on the container roses page), but keep in mind a large container is heavy and difficult to transport.  When you prune your roses before transplant, you can reduce the size of the plant by one-third to one-half.  If absolutely necessary by two-thirds.  You can also prune the roots by one-half.  These things will allow you to use a smaller container for easier handling.  You can also carefully remove ground soil from the roots so the pot is filled only with potting soil, much lighter weight than ground soil.  Most if not all of the ground soil should be removed if container storage will be long term, as potting soil is a necessary medium for container growing.

Transplant your roses (to the container and also into their new home) on a cool cloudy morning if possible.  Make sure they get a slow soak initially, water well the first 7 to 10 days, but cut to regular weekly waterings then so they don't "drown".  Place your containers where they do not receive hot afternoon sun and minimize the sun exposure initially to 3 to 6 hours if possible.  Your roses may spend 2 to 3 weeks recovering from transplant shock and re-establishing roots.

Chances of success are very good for transplanting roses and well worth the attempt for cherished roses. Let me know if you have any other questions, and good luck.

The Ordinary Gardener


I read with interest your article regarding over-wintering standard roses that appears on, but have a question that I am hoping you can address.

I live in Milwaukee, WI, which is considered to be Zone 5. Last season, I purchased a few standards and planted them in the ground, then wrapped them heavily for the winter. Unfortunately, despite my best efforts, they did not come back this spring, so I have purchased 3 replacements that I intend to keep as potted plants, then store in my unheated garage this winter per your instructions for wrapping them with a combination of pipe insulation, burlap, blankets, etc.

The question I have is regarding watering during the dormant time they will spend in the garage. Normally, a plant in the ground will receive moisture in winter from snow and/or rain, however a potted plant not left in the open obviously will not. I am aware that I should water the roses well prior to storing them, but do I water periodically throughout the winter, or leave them alone?  I realize there is no guarantee, but I would hate to lose these beautiful roses because I missed a crucial step....I would store them in my basement, however its heated  (low 60's) and I'm not sure they would do well in that environment, hence the plan to store them with protection in the garage. If you feel they could do well in the basement in that temperature range, I can certainly consider that, too, but I believe roses need some dormancy in winter, and I know low 60's is way too warm to force a dormant period.

Appreciate any advice you can offer!


Milwaukee, WI


Growing standards in the midwest is definitely a challenge.  If you are able to maintain temperatures above freezing in your garage, the roses have a good chance of survival.  However, I would expect that there are times that your garage dips well below freezing in Milwaukee so take extra care as  outlined by storing in a corner or wall  adjoining your heated house and providing some insulation.

As for watering, reduced availability of water is one of the many things that puts a plant into dormancy.  So maintain your regular watering until it is time to store the rose, but do not put it into storage too soggy.  Damp soil is fine.  Depending on the temperature of the garage, your rose will likely be completely dormant and have no ability to draw water. An occasional sprinkle of water should do no harm as long as the soil is not wet.

As for your basement, you are correct.  The rose would not go dormant.  If it is necessary to store a rose at 60 degrees or warmer, it will also need food and sunlight and should be treated as a potted plant in a sunny window.

I wish I could give you a guaranteed method of storage, but every zone, region, garage, and extremes from one winter to the next are different.  I will be interested to hear next spring how things work out for you. 

Good luck and happy gardening!

The Ordinary Gardener

Thank you for your reply. I had a feeling that watering was not needed if storing in the garage, but wanted to make sure. My garage is very sheltered, but temps will go below 32, so I will make sure to properly wrap and protect the trees, and let you know how they fare next year.
Again, thanks for both the article and your reply!
Happy gardening!

Dappled Willow

I am thinking of planting a Salix Hakuro Nishiki in my front landscaping but do not want it to be bushy.  Is it possible for me to keep the width pruned without damaging it?

Crown Point, IN

Nishiki Willows love to be pruned!  Frequent pruning will promote new colorful growth as well as control the size of your shrub.  Note the following excerpt from my Nishiki Willow Growing page:
‘Nishiki’ willows take to pruning and shearing very well, to either promote good color or maintain a manageable size. Pruning should be done while dormant, in either early winter or VERY early spring before catkins appear and any growth begins. You may prune it down to about 12” every few years, which will produce a lot of regrowth and a very dense plant. If you prefer a more open and natural form, simply remove up to one third of the branches down to the ground each year or two. By thinning rather than shearing you will have an 8-10 feet tall and wide, elegant fountain of gorgeous foliage. Or shear as needed to maintain size, or every 4-6 weeks to produce new colorful growth.
If you hoped to keep the shrub tall and narrow, that may take some experimenting.  If you select a shrub with a dominant main trunk, you may be able to prune it into a "tree form" by removing all the bottom branches from the ground up to  whatever height you choose.  Then prune by thinning (removing up to one third of the branches each year), paying particular attention to side branches.  However, Nishiki Willows tend to be much more shrubby than tree form, making it difficult to achieve a tree-like form.  Instead, I would simply try to maintain an overall small but balanced size.
The Ordinary Gardener


Privacy Hedge

What would be a good privacy hedge bush in the shade in northwest Iowa?



There are so very many shrubs to choose from, even in the shade!  You need to determine a few things first.  Just how much shade, and is the sunlight morning, afternoon or dappled?  Do you want dense or loose screening?  Do you want privacy year round or just in the summer?  How tall do you want or need it to be?  Would like it to flower?

From there, just start considering the shrubs that you like most.  Any shrub, or small tree for that matter, can be a hedge screen.  Anything from shrub roses to 60 foot evergreens.  And perhaps you might like layers, for example ornamental lilac trees (the actual tree form) with medium flowering shrubs or evergreens in front.

To create a dense hedge or privacy screen, plants should be arranged tightly together.  If the shrubs reach 4 feet wide at maturity, plant them as close as 2 feet apart.  Planted 3 feet apart the mature plants still overlap, will not close together quite as quickly, and will not be as dense.  However you will get more years out of the shrubs because they will not be cutting off sunlight from the interior as much.  Planted 4 feet apart, the shrubs will eventually meet each other and still provide a good deal of privacy.

For dense shade and winter greenery, consider upright yew evergreens.  They grow dense and somewhat slowly.  Arborvitae will tolerate a good deal of shade, retain a nice form without trimming, and are available in a variety of sizes both tall and wide.  If your planting site is exposed to winter winds, stick with the Techny Arborvitae, the will withstand the drying winds best.

As for decidous shrubs, the "standards" for hedges are:  viburnum, which likes at least 6 hours of sun, grows dense and rapidly, and looks good sheared or natural;   Alpine Current withstand quite a bit of shade and shears into a neat hedge;  Some of the hydrangea do well in shade, creating a loose and pretty hedge screen;  Dogwood is lovely as a tall screen, grows rapidly and tall, variegated dogwood create an interesting bicolor look;  And some of the shrub roses will bloom quite well with six or more hours of sun each day. 

But there are endless varieties of shrubs and evergreens that will create a lovely screen, visit your local nursery soon to start getting some ideas.  They should be well stocked with shrubs for fall planting.  Get some ideas, whittle down the list, and let me know what you are considering if you want further advise!

The Ordinary Gardener

Knock Out Roses

I planted my first Knockout Rose Bush last year.  Later in the summer but still early enough for it to bloom etc.  I covered it for the winter with a burlap bag and tied the bag and tucked it in real good for the winter.  I under covered it this spring and so far it still hasn’t done anything.  No green at all just brown stems. Is there still a chance that it will come back to life or is it hopeless.

If you think it is not going to make it can you tell me what I did wrong because I definitely want to get more but not until I know what I did wrong.

Thank you
Sue from Northern Minnesota

There is a good chance that the rose is dead, but you could try cutting all the branches to a few inches to see if growth can be forced.  See the bottom of this page:
Unfortunately Knockout is NOT hardy in zones 3 or 4, although many sellers claim they are.  Typically a Knockout will die back to the ground, but regrow from the protected root.  Two things I would recommend:  When you plant even a hardy rose in zone 3 or 4, plant a little deeper than normal so the union where root meets stem is one or two inches below soil surface.  Then, to further protect the roots, mound soil or compost at least a few to several inches over the base of the plant AFTER the ground freezes and there is no danger of the rose trying to grow in a warm spell. Further covering and wrapping of the branches may, or may not, protect the branches from dieback - I have had both good and bad luck preserving the bush portion of shrub roses.  See the winter protect page:
If you don't think this was the problem, then the diagnosis gets difficult to say the least.  Was there something growing there before that did well?  Does the soil drain well so the roots don't sit in consistently wet soil?
If you hesitate to try Knockout again, try a Canadian Explorer or Parkland Rose - mine die back to the ground or partially every year no matter what I do, but they regrow.  I also grow Rugosa Roses - they are tough as nails and never dieback completely with absolutely no protection.
Let me know how things work out!
The Ordinary Gardener

River Birch

Surely, listing river birches at the head of your small tree page is a mistake.  I have three of them in my yard--all huge and towering over my house.  They are an extremely messy tree, dropping piles of catkins in spring, followed by wheel barrows full of seeds.  They shed branches and twigs throughout the year in huge quantities.  River birches can be a beautiful trees and they provide good shade.  But listing them as "small" is inaccurate.  They should be planted well away from buildings.  Cleaning up after them is a daily task from early spring through July.  I actually use a rake on my driveway and other hard surfaces to reduce the amount of stooping required to gather branches.  In autumn they shed prodigious amounts of drab brown leaves.

I like the shade, but otherwise I am not a fan of the river birch.

Hudson, Iowa


My "Small Trees" page is unfortunately rather brief at present.  It is difficult with a young and growing website to be complete and all inclusive on every topic and item.  Complete development of this website will take my lifetime!

But to your point, there are a great number of birch varieties each with their own positive and negative qualities.  I have two birch on my property.  One is a common variety "river birch" that is quite tall, perhaps 35 feet.  This is still a small to medium tree in the grand scheme of things, considering my maples tower more than 60 feet.  A large tree can reach as high as 120 feet or more.  My other birch is perhaps only 25 feet after 20 or 25 years, so is by no means considered a large shade tree either.  This particular variety is commonly planted throughout the region directly in front of homes to provide filtered shade and privacy without overwhelming the home. 

Like your birch, mine are both messy also.  One dropping great volumes of seeds, but in the grass.  The other drops small broken branches, but in a mulched planting area.  Both trees were very young when I purchased this property, so fortunately I was able to move them to appropriate areas where the mess would not be a nuisance.

It is wonderful that you still see the beauty of a birch tree in spite of the drawbacks!  I am not always gracious toward my problem plants and sometimes too quick to banish them to hidden corners!

Thanks for writing, I LOVE hearing from fellow gardeners.  And your comments are a good reminder to get back to the page for expansion!

Just for fun, attached a pic of one of my birch that was banished to the side boulevard.  I actually love it there!  Too bad everything in the bed is not in bloom yet, such a cold spring!

Birch tree by TOG

Happy gardening!  I appreciate hearing from you,

The Ordinary Gardener

Query re Rosa rugosa ‘Fru Dagmar Hastrup’
I wonder if this is your first query from Tasmania!
I grew several seedlings from the seed of Rosa rugosa "Fru Dagmar Hastrup" and these are now about two years old, growing well, still in pots, but haven't flowered as yet. I wonder what type of rose I will get as I understand this rugosa rose is cultivar.  Is it worth growing on these seedlings?  Your advice would be most appreciated.

Kind regards, Susana

Thanks for visiting the site!  And interestingly enough, I get visitors from all over the world, hundreds from Australia and it's islands.  In the last year alone we have had 52 visits from Tasmania!  You, however, are the first to make contact.  So, on to your question.
Even considering that rugosa roses are "relatively" easy to grow from seed, you have done extremely well to get yours to germinate and grow beyond seedling stage, as no rose is easy to grow from seed.  Many seed grown roses will be of poor quality: disease prone; poor color; poor fragrance.  On the other hand, rugosas sometimes produce some very vigorous offspring.  You can never be sure what will ultimately be produced as far as the blooms, but isn't that what is fun about gardening?  I would absolutely allow the plants to continue, you have waited a long time for the surprise, and it may be coming soon.  Roses grown from seed will sometimes bloom in their third year, sometimes it takes several years.
Happy gardening!  I would be interested to hear how the rugosas turn out.
The Ordinary Gardener

Thank you so much for your reply.  Well, you've inspired me to keep on with my little creations!  I have a number of seedling grown rugosas but also have some seedlings that came from some very round, shiny red hips which I managed to get hold of one autumn (I've no idea what the rose might be).
I also have some seedlings grown from seeds of R. Highdownensis - should be interesting to see if these turn out true to type and some from seeds of  R. Virginiana.
They are all still growing in very small pots (3 inch tubes) so I think I might pot them all up in larger pots now (in our autumn) so that they might produce some flowers by the spring (in November/December this year).  They are unlikely to flower in the small pots that they are in, I would think.  I'll let you know what I end up with!
Best wishes

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