Homemade Yogurt
½ gallon
whole milk
¼ cup heavy
cream (optional)
6 oz plain whole milk yogurt with live and active cultures
Add milk and cream to a heavy pot, cover and set to medium low. Bring to a bare simmer until bubbles form around the edges 190-200 degrees, about 1 hour.
Stir the milk occasionally as it heats.
Remove from heat and transfer milk to bowl. Let cool at room temperature to 110-115 degrees, about 1 hour.

Transfer 1 cup of warm milk to a small bowl and whisk in yogurt until smooth. Stir yogurt-milk mixture back into remaining pot of warm milk. Cover bowl and move to oven with the light turned on.
Let yogurt sit undisturbed in a closed oven for 12 hours.
Move bowl to refrigerator and chill for at least another 4 hours, it will continue to thicken as it chills.

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The Dirty Dozen Worst Trees 
Tree selection is one of the most important considerations when a homeowner, developer or landscaper is deciding what species to grow or plant. My purpose here is to help you avoid the forehead slapping realization that you have planted the 'wrong' tree... 5 years ago. Many questions need to be answered including size, location, site characteristics, aesthetic features, pest susceptibility, hardiness, and maintenance considerations.
Some of these trees may do quite well in a forest or other parts of the U.S., so my intention is not to apply a blanket statement for all these trees to all situations. Also, please don't take this advice as a reason to remove a healthy tree. This article is based on my conversations with clients, arborists, nurseries, landscapers, and foresters.

Siberian Elm (Ulmus pumila)
  Zone 3 to 9

Avoid this tree at all costs. The Siberian elm can exceed 50 feet in height within 20 to 30 years.
The initial growth is fast but the ensuing branch breakage, messiness, and lack of ornamental assets appalling. The tree quite happily grows under any kind of conditions. A prolific seeder, I have seen entire woodlots dominated by this species. One of, if not, the world's worst trees. Native to Siberia, China and Korea and unfortunately was not left there. Plant instead: Jefferson American Elm (Ulmus Americana 'Jefferson')

Norway maple (Acer platanoides)
Zone 3 to 7

An easily-grown tree, Norway maple will reach 40 to 50 feet in height with an almost equal spread, and it tolerates air pollution and drought quite nicely. It often suffers from girdling roots but the more significant issue is that it is overused and overplanted, especially the maroon leaf color variety called 'Crimson King'. Its wide leaves cast a dense shade that severely limits what can be planted under the canopy, especially grass. Combine that with the fact that Norway maple is popping up in local woodlands and is considered invasive in ever-widening areas of the country adds up to another tree to avoid. Plant instead: Swamp white oak (Querus bicolor)

Japanese Tree Lilac (Syringa reticulata)
Zone 3 to 7

Another overplanted tree that will grow to around 20 feet, with a spread of perhaps 15 feet. The malodorous spring blooms are not worth the laundry list of negatives including poor fall color, borers, leaf blights, wilts, and powdery mildew. The flower heads produce copious amounts of seeds that create baby lilacs everywhere. Just say no to this "one season wonder". Plant instead: Showy Mountain Ash (Sorbus decora)

4.  Walnut (Juglans nigra)
Zone 4 to 9

Black walnut is a beautiful native tree, reaching a height of 75-100 feet, with a spread to match. It tolerates drought, provides fruit relished by wildlife, and makes a lovely shade tree. Unfortunately, its roots produce chemicals called juglones, which are highly toxic to a wide range of desirable landscape plants (grapes, rhododendrons, blueberries, peonies. tomatoes, peppers, and potatoes). Additionally, the husks of the nuts can stain clothing and sidewalks, so unless you have a really large landscape, this tree is best left in the forest. Plant instead: Kentucky Coffeetree (Gymnocladus dioicus 'Espresso')

White or Common Mulberry (Morus alba)
Zone 4 to 8

Growing to 35-50 feet, with a similar spread, these are attractive easily grown trees with interesting foliage and edible fruit. As is common with many alien invaders, white mulberry is a prolific fruit producer and aggressively colonizes open, sunny sites. The only beneficiaries are the birds and the silkworms; the tree was originally imported from china for the silkworm industry and unfortunately escaped. It is now invasive through much of the country. The fruit is very messy and will stain clothing and patios. All in all, best to give this one a wide berth.
  Plant instead: Hackberry
 (Celtis occidentalis)  

6.  The European White Birches
(Betula spp; B. pendula, B. pubescens, B. platyphylla) 
Zone 4 to 9

Generally reaching 40-50 feet, available as a clump, they
are tremendously ornamental. They are splendid in winter when the milky white bark is framed against evergreens. These birch varieties, however, are susceptible to the bronze birch borer and birch leaf miner, both tree killers. Control requires insecticides, which is time-consuming and costly. They have a very shallow root system and do poorly when planted in lawns. A short-lived tree, think carefully before planting. Plant instead: native birches (B. papyrifera, B. popuifolia)

Colorado blue spruce (Picea pungens)
Zone 3 to 7

Capable of growing 30- 60 feet high with a 20 foot spread, this conifer is in high demand because of its attractive blue-green foliage. Native to Colorado, it suffers tremendously when planted outside its native range. Intolerant to shade, wet soils, heat, pollution, or high humidity. It often looks open, poor, and dingy with age due to absence of lower branches and needle drop caused by disease. Leave this tree in Colorado where it is much happier. Plant instead: Serbian spruce (Picea omorika)

Flowering Crabapple (malus spp) ,
apple scab susceptible cultivars
Zone 4 to 7

There are few other trees which approach the beauty of a crabapple tree in full flower. Ornamental crabapples are an outstanding group of small flowering trees. They are valued for foliage, flowers, fruit, and variations in habit or size. Unfortunately many crabapples are worthless because of extreme susceptibility to apple scab, which causes the tree to drop most of its leaves by July. It makes no sense to spray or to have half-to fully-defoliated trees in the garden when smart selections are available. Disease resistance should be your first consideration. Plant instead:
  • Adirondack 
  • Beverly 
  • Calocarpa 
  • Dolgo 
  • Harvest Gold
  • Lancelot 
  • Molten Lava
  • Prairifire 
  • Professor Sprenger 
  • Royal Raindrops 
  • Tina 
  • Sugar Tyme


Little leaf linden
(Tilia cordata, especially 'Greenspire') 
Zone 3 to 7

Little leaf linden is another over-planted tree in Minnesota. Growing to 40 feet high it tolerates poor soils and tough urban conditions. It often develops tight branching, multiple leaders, which leads to included bark formation requiring high maintenance pruning. Basal suckering, girdling roots, and storm damage are also frequent headaches. To make matters worse, Japanese beetles love to make lace doilies out of the leaves. Plant instead: Merrill Magnolia (Magnolia x loebneri Merrill)

10.  Japanese maple (Acer palmatum)
Zone 5 to 8   

There are many maple species in Japan, but most of the trees that gardeners call Japanese maples are varieties of Acer palmatum. The species can grow to 20 or 30 feet tall, often in the understory of open woods between larger trees. Japanese maples are at their best in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 6 through 8. Pushing the Zone to include these in Minnesota gardens often leads to disappointment after a brutal winter. Garden centers do sell these seductively beautiful trees and occasionally one will succeed in a protected site. But among the hundreds of cultivars, none is known to be fully hardy in zone 4. Save your money and invest elsewhere. Plant instead: Korean maple (Acer pseudosieboldianum).

Austrian pine (Pinus nigra)
Zone 3 to 6

A very hardy tree that withstands city conditions better than many other pines. Very tolerant of soils, it will stand some dryness and exposure and resists heat and drought. It is an adaptable species with very stiff needles making a good specimen, screen, or windbreak. In recent years though, this pine has exhibited severe dieback in Midwestern states, most of which is attributed to Diplodia tip blight and pine bark beelte. Leave this one at the nursery. Plant instead: Eastern red cedar (Juniperus virginiana)

Freeman maples (Acer x freemanii; Armstrong, Autumn Blaze) Zone 3 to 9  
It seems that Autumn Blaze maple cannot be planted fast enough. It is one of the nurseryman's biggest moneymakers because they establish and flourish under the worst conditions. Unfortunately, these trees are also notoriously weak in the crotch and will crack in half during the first big storm. Other problems such as iron chlorosis, maple leaf galls, and stem girdling roots don't show up until your check has been cashed. There's a reason we call this tree "Autumn Disaster". Plant instead: Ginkgo biloba 

For readers who find themselves wanting to know more about trees, you can reference this clickable link.  
Sleeping Beauties
There is a group of early plants that are classified as spring ephemerals. They emerge, bloom and disappear, foliage and all, within such a short amount of time that they are usually gone before mid-May, giving them a truly magical quality. The magnificent pasque flower  does this, but many are wildflowers that have developed this ability to come up in a wooded area and complete most of their life cycle before the deciduous trees fully leaf out creating shade. Some of the nicest spring ephemerals are Trillium, Trout lily, Bellwort, May-apple, Bloodroot and Virginia bluebells. Enjoy their unique beauty early in the growing season and let other plants take their place later.

Pair Virginia bluebells with hosta for a beautiful display before the hosta emerge.

Bloodroot lights up the woodland garden.

Pasque flowers signal the start of spring.

For more information on Native Spring Ephemerals 

Thanks for reading.  
Happy Planting!    


Faith Appelquist

President & Founder


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