For all gardeners one of the most frustrating parts of gardening is seeing the damage caused by rabbits and deer. Hopefully you did some wrapping/fencing last fall on some of those plants that are rabbit and deer favorites. 

But the risk for damage is still looming. Because of the extreme snow and drifting we have had this winter, drifts may now have covered the tops of fences and wrapping leaving a direct path to the plant. Rabbits easily walk in and deer may be able to walk directly to the top of a tree – a perfect place for rubbing antlers or eating off the top or middle of plants. 

What damage is caused if reached by rabbits/deer?

·      A 1” girdling of a tree trunk by rabbits is enough to kill the tree if it is anywhere on the main trunk. 

·      If rabbits chew down shrubs such as spireas, barberries, potentillas etc., they will probably come back although it may take a season or 2 to recover.

·       High drifts may allow deer to nibble off the middle or tops of evergreens. This won’t necessarily kill the plant, but it will look misshapen and no longer serve its intended purpose.

·      If deer rub antlers on upper trunk or branches, it may kill the tree or will misshapen it for a long time.

 What Else Can Be Done????

·      Check wrapping and fencing and clear a path around plants if snow has gone over fences/wrapping.  Look for tracks to see if rabbits have gotten access to plants. Live trap if necessary.

·      Commercial products of “Rabbit and Deer Chaser” are available to sprinkle around plants, but need to be reapplied every time it melts or rains.

·      At Natural Plus we have tried a home remedy: Try hanging bars of Irish Spring Soap in tree branches. Deer seem to dislike the smell. One of our best deterrents is our lively dog, Lena. Deer seem to be more wary if there is a dog roaming the property.

·      If deer and rabbit damage seem impossible to deal with, plant more perennials and more plants that are more deer resistant. Perennials die down over winter and so are not as likely to be affected. We can help you identify plants that are more deer resistant.

 Plants That are More Deer Resistant

If conditions are severe enough, rabbits and deer will eat most anything.

But the following plants are considered more deer resistant (usually):



Austrian Pine



Achillea (Yarrow)

Aconitum (Monkshood)

Allium (Ornamental onion)

Aquilegia (Columbine)

Aralia (Spikenard)

Artemisia (Silvermound)

Asclepias (Butterfly weed)




Dicentra (Bleeding Heart)

Digitalis (Foxglove)

Epimedium (Barrenwort)


Gaillardia (blanket flower)

Monarda (Bee Balm)

Nepeta (Catmint)

Rudbeckia (Black eyed susan)










Dwarf bush honeysuckle


Ash leaf spirea





Rhododendron (not including azaleas)











Honey locust




We are always happy to answer any questions you may have about protecting your plants! We want you to enjoy them for years to come!

Another great article about deer resistant trees HERE.




Most gardeners have made the mistake of planting something that gets too large for its space.  Before planting anything check out how tall and wide the plant you picked will get.


Once you’ve determined how big your space is, and that you need a smaller plant, look for new smaller varieties of old favorites.

Many of the old favorite varieties of plants have been hybridized into dwarf versions.  We can help you pick the right plant for your space. Here are some of our favorite dwarf shrubs:

Hetz Midget Arborvitae – dwarf globe evergreen that grows 2-3’ tall

Danica Arborvitae- dwarf globe evergreen that grows 2-3’ tall

Holmstrup Arborvitae – upright evergreen that grows 4-5’ tall

Dwarf Barberries – multiple varieties that grow 1 ½-2’ tall – some include Concord, Pygmy, Golden Nugget, Golden Ruby, Pygmy Ruby

Buckthorn Fineline  - grows 2-3’ wide, 5-7’ tall

Hydrangeas – some new dwarf varieties include Bobo, Endless Summer Bloomstruck, Little Lime, and Hamptons

Junipers- Blue chip, Blue Star

Ninebark – Little Devil   Grows 3-4’ high and wide

Blue Shag Pine – Makes a mound 3-4’ tall

Potentilla – Mango Tango, Gold Star  (grow about 2’ tall)

Rhododendron Ramapo – Same lavender flowers, grows 2’ tall

Roses – Multiple varieties of Easy Elegance Roses : Coral Cove, Kashmir, Paint the Town, Flower Carpet varieties, Nearly Wild

Spireas – Multiple new dwarf varieties including Birchleaf, Dakota Goldcharm, Little Princess,

Spruce – Birds Nest, Dwarf Norway

Viburnum – Opulus Nanum (grows 2’), Bailey Compact (grows 5-6’)

Weigela – Minuet (grows 2-3’), Dark Horse (grows 3’)


 by Linda Hopper

Older gardeners remember the days when a trip to the library was necessary to find out new information. Although that is still a good choice, a bountiful crop of information is right at your finger tips.

Here are some reliable sites you may want to check out: 

The Iowa Gardener

Iowa State University Outreach and Extension

 Direct link to email them the ISU Extension

ISU Extension downloadable articles, some are free

Reiman Gardens at ISU


Birds and Blooms

Better Homes and Gardens

American Daylily Association

Purdue Extension

2 Apps to download for your phone:

Purdue Plant Doctor: Diagnosis diseases, etc.  from a photo

Plant Snap: Identifies plants and weeds from a photo



frangrant plants.jpg

Most of us are familiar with the wonderful sweet fragrance of an old fashioned lilac in the spring. A gentle breeze carries the fragrance through out a whole neighborhood.

 Would you like to add some other varieties of plants that add fragrance to your yard?

fragrant2 (1).jpg

Here are some Natural Plus favorites:


All fruit trees (apples, pears, cherries, plums) have a wonderful fragrance in the spring when blooming. Plums are especially fragrant. 

Some other ornamental trees that give a sweet fragrance in spring when in bloom are flowering crabs, serviceberries, hawthorns, Japanese tree lilacs, fringe trees, and dwarf Korean tree lilacs.

Lindens are an upright pyramidal shaped shade tree with a heart shaped leaf. In June they produce very small yellow blooms that are barely visible unless you get up close to the tree. However, those blooms are very fragrant and you may be able to smell them from a half a block away.


Many shrubs are fragrant when in bloom. Some you may want to consider are: lilacs, (bloomerang lilacs rebloom to give a second set of fragrant blossoms mid-summer), mockorange (dwarf and standard size), snowberry, and elderberries.

Roses may or may not be fragrant. Newer hybridized varieties often have beautiful bloom colors and are more disease resistant, but have little fragrance. Older varieties such as rugosa roses bring back memories of fragrant rose gardens. One of our favorites is Purple Pavement.


Most people are aware of the fragrance of peonies – a sturdy perennial that goes back generations. At Natural Plus we have a row of peonies that are over 50 years old and still produce hearty blooms every year.

Some other perennials that will add fragrance to your yard include:

Garden phlox (come in many colors), lavender (there is now a variety hardy for zone 4), iris, hyssop, astilbe, dianthus, most coneflowers, helleborus, bee balm, and sweet autumn clematis.  

Bulbs and Woodland Plants

Hyacinths (bulbs) and Lily of the Valley are spring bloomers that are particularly fragrant.



Evergreens add year round beauty and interest to your yard. They add shade, habitat, and protection for wildlife. Evergreen windbreaks slow down winter and summer winds to reduce heating and cooling bills.

Years ago choices were limited and evergreens planted around home foundations often became over-grown and unruly. Today we have hundreds of varieties to choose from.

Here are a few common varieties of evergreen options today:

Low Growing Evergreens

Some low growing evergreens may get only 6 inches tall but spread 6-8 feet. These are useful on banks or wherever you want to fill in an area with a low growing shrub. Some varieties include Blue Chip Junipers  and Icy Blue Junipers. 

For evergreens around a foundation, there are new dwarf varieties that stay small and compact and require little or no trimming. Some of these include Hetz Midget Arborvitae, Danica Arborvitae, and Blue Star Junipers.

 Mid-size Evergreens

There are many new varieties of mid-size evergreens that grow anywhere from 3 to 6 feet tall. They come in a variety of foliage and colors. Mint Julep junipers are deep green and are a good foundation plant. Sea of Gold Junipers are green with golden tips for added interest. Globe Blue Spruce grow 4-5 feet tall with a rounded shape, a very blue color, and require little or no trimming. Dwarf Norway Spruce also grow into a similar size and shape but are a deep green color.

If you have a lot of shade, Yews are your best option. These are deep green, soft needle evergreens that tolerate full or part shade. Taunton Yews grow 3-5 feet tall and wide and can be trimmed.

Upright Evergreens

For some added height, upright evergreens are a good choice. Emerald Arborvitae are deep green and grow 12-15’ tall but only 3-4’ wide. Blue Arrow Junjpers grow 12 feet tall but only 2 feet wide. Techney Arborvitaes are often used on farm windbreaks. They grow about 15 feet tall and 6-8 feet wide. There are many varieties of upright junipers, yews, and other arborvitaes to choose from.

Evergreen Trees

There is nothing more stately than a 100 year old, 100 foot tall  drooping Norway Spruce. These have survived the test of time. Unfortunately some tall evergreens have become susceptible to disease. 20 years ago Colorado Spruce were a favorite, but these have now become prone to a disease and are no longer recommended.

Eastern Red Cedars are the only native evergreen to Iowa. These have also survived the test of time and can be seen growing wild in ditches and along roadways. Although they are not the most beautiful shape, they survive the tough Iowa winters and thrive here.

Ornamental Evergreens

One of the most fun new additions to the plant world are ornamental evergreens. A Globe Blue Spruce Tree is basically a Globe Blue Spruce on a 3 to 5 foot stem. Some old traditional evergreens are now trimmed into pom pom shapes, spirals, and other interesting forms. These all add interest and some fun to your landscaping.

Globe Blue Spruce in the snow

Globe Blue Spruce in the snow

Care and Maintenance of Evergreens

Care and maintenance of evergreens will extend their life and keep them looking beautiful. New plantings should be watered 2-3 times a week for the first season. Established plantings are usually self sufficient but still need to be watered in prolonged periods of dryness. Be sure plants are well watered going into winter. This helps prevent winter burn.

It is good to fertilize evergreens with Miracid fertilizer at least 2-3 times during the early growing season. It is best to not fertilize in the fall. Trim evergreens to keep a nice shape. Most can be trimmed in the early spring. For evergreen trees it is often recommended to trim one half of the “candle” as new growth emerges.  

If you have a special need for an evergreen or have questions, feel free to call the nursery.