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Irish Soda Bread
   
4 cups flour
4 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 ½ teaspoon kosher salt
4 tablespoons cold butter
1 ¾ cups buttermilk
1 egg
1 teaspoon grated orange zest
1 cup dried currants tossed with 1 tablespoon flour
 
Preheat oven to 375. Combine buttermilk, egg and orange zest and set aside. Combine flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl.

Cut butter into flour mixture using a pastry blender until butter is pea size.

Using a mixer, slowly add buttermilk mixture to flour mixture until just combined. Mix in currents.

By hand, form dough into a ball. Place bread on cookie sheet and cut an X into the top. Bake for 45-55 minutes.




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Ninebark - One Tough Cookie 
Ninebark is one tough shrub which is undergoing a makeover, with new varieties entering the marketplace at a dazzling pace. These exciting introductions fit into almost any landscape. Adapted to difficult sites, Ninebark is cold hardy (Zone 2-7), can be planted in sun or partial shade, is drought tolerant and can withstand acid or alkaline soils.
Ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolius) is a thicket-forming deciduous shrub native to North America. The ornamental attributes of this native are pretty modest; white flower clusters in late spring, with humdrum three-lobed green leaves, a dense tangle of stems, mediocre fall color and peeling stem bark (hence the common name).

The outlook for ninebark changed dramatically in 1968 with the discovery of a rogue, purple-leaf seedling called 'Diabolo'®. By 1990, this blazing beauty was ready for market and ignited a firestorm that launched shy ninebark into the horticulture limelight. Plant breeders on both sides of the Atlantic have exploited this infusion of purple genes and crossed Diabolo® with the dwarf cultivar 'Nanus' and the yellow form 'Dart's Gold' to generate a circus of colorful cultivars in various sizes, such as 'Amber Jubilee', 'Lemon Candy', 'Little Devil', 'Summer Wine' and 'Tiny Wine'.
For best results, plant in full sun with good air movement. Pruning is done in summer, right after flowering. The reasons for pruning are to remove old wood and encourage fresh vegetative or flowering growth. When pruning, remove some of the oldest woody stems back to ground level. Renew by cutting the entire plant to ground level in late winter.


Little Devil ninebark pairs nicely with Bobo hydrangea and My Monet weigela.


Diablo may turn cucumber green in the heat of the summer.


Some cultivars are prone to powdery mildew. If you see this disease, cut off the infected branches and dispose. 
  
Ninebark is superb in vases with smokebush, hosta and spiraea. It looks amazing near annuals with pink or orange flowers.


Great for pollinators, the spring blossoms are attractive to bees and butterflies, while birds enjoy the seeds in fall.


Choose your ninebark carefully, for color but also for size of the spot you plan to put it. Some can easily grow 8 to 10' tall and as wide.
For more information on Ninebark
 
Nature's Little Sideshow: Galls
You see a walking dandruff flake or a woodlouse that's been dusted with flour. Maybe bright red bumps on maple leaves, a spherical bulge in an oak twig. By the end of the summer, many strange shapes have appeared on trees, shrubs and other plants. If your tree is covered with these growths, it probably causes you to scratch your head and wonder what the heck is going on. You might think that the tree is sick. These weird little anomalies are called galls, and they are nothing to worry about.

A gall is an overgrowth of plant tissue in response to an irritation. It can occur on the leaf, buds, branches, flowers, petioles and roots. The irritant can be egg-laying tiny wasps, mites or other organisms. The plant surrounds the eggs with its own cells to seal them off. This occurs in the spring when plant tissue is developing. Inside the gall, the eggs hatch into larvae, which dine on plant cells from the inside of the gall as they go through their life cycle. The plant tissue protects them as they grow, and eventually the adult insect burrows out and departs.

Many kinds of gall occur on only one kind of plant, in a balanced relationship that has evolved over thousands of years. Gall names resemble the endless variety of the galls themselves; maple velvet gall, wooly oak gall, oak bladder gall, oak apple gall, noxious oak gall, maple bladder gall, and ash flower mite gall. Gall s, such as the maple spindle gall or oak bullet gall, are constructed by the plant to protect itself.
On a hackberry tree, for example, nearly every leaf will have nipple gall. The tree remains perfectly healthy, and the emerging insects are part of the food chain that supports birds and other wildlife.

If you examine a large gall, such as an oak gall, you may be able to see a small hole where an insect emerged. Slice open a fresh gall, and you may even find the larvae inside.

I don't recommend taking any action to control galls. By the time you notice the galls, the insect is generally long gone.


An oak tree heavily infested with galls.
Photograph was taken in the winter.



Live oak woolly leaf gall is caused by a wasp.


Galls caused by the hackberry nipple gall maker on the underside of a hackberry leaf.


Elm pouch aphid galls.


Bullet galls on an oak twig .

For more information on Plant Galls.
 

Thanks for reading.  
Happy Planting!    

Faith

Faith Appelquist

President & Founder

 

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