Quinoa with Spinach, Feta
and Sautéed Shiitakes  
1 cup quinoa 
6 tablespoons olive oil 
8 oz fresh shiitake mushrooms, trimmed and quartered 
6 oz baby spinach 
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar 
4 oz feta 
Salt and pepper  

Toast quinoa in a large saucepan over medium heat, stirring frequently until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Stir in 1 ½ cups water and a pinch of salt and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce the heat to low, and simmer until the water is absorbed, about 15 minutes.


Meanwhile, heat 4 tablespoons oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add mushrooms and cook until golden brown and tender, about 8 minutes.


Spoon warm quinoa, mushrooms and salt and pepper to taste, into spinach in serving bowl.  


Drizzle with vinegar and remaining 2 tablespoons oil. Top with feta.





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Branching Out with Faith Appelquist



Questions, suggestions or comments are welcome.

Contact Faith at (612) 618-5244 or by email 


Pushing the Petal to the Mettle  


Nobody wants what our parents had, the hybrid teas classic roses of the day. The rose's reputation for being fussy is part of its charm; constant pruning, watering, chemical spraying and, even in mild winters, they need to be covered just so. The reward for all that hard work is a stunning flower with lush petals and a distinct aroma. But over the years, few people wanted to expend the effort and the rose industry sagged. Roses were becoming a fading passion, increasingly restricted to the flower shop. Plenty of new rose breeds have hit the market over the years promising to be disease-resistant or easy-care. But the hype has never lived up to the performance. Roses should work for you, not the other way around.


Enter the Knock Out Rose®. Some things are just too good to be true. This rose is special. A rose bush packed with pinkish-red blooms. No need to prune because the dead flowers simply fall of. No need to spray. Immune to diseases such as black spot and powdery mildew. It is so hardy it can be planted in places unimaginable: road-medians, mall parking lots, and even ignored gardens. And they just keep blooming away, all summer long. Finally we have a rose that is user-friendly, and I am not looking back.




For more information on the Knock Out Rose ®

Hot Times for Birches


One of my most frequent calls among homeowners is to evaluate a sick birch. What I usually find is a stressed tree that has been over-pruned, over-fertilized, and growing in heavy turf. The tree is about 10-years-old with one of the stems completely browned out and a second showing signs of decline in the form of a couple of dying branches and fading color in the top of the crown.


White birch (Betula papyrifera) is perhaps one of the top five planted trees in Minnesota. People love them and they are in high demand. White birches are tremendously ornamental. They are splendid in winter when the milky white bark is framed against evergreens. Their yellow-gold fall color makes a vivid display.


What's killing these birches is drought, heat, and poor placement which predisposes birches to attack by the bronze birch borer (BBB). I often find them planted in retail parking lots, boulevards, and post construction soil which is the last place birches want to be.


The European birches (B. pendula, pubescens, platyphylla) are most susceptible to the insect, while the native birches (B. papyrifera, popuifolia, nigra) less so. River birch (B. nigra) is among the least susceptible. Paper birches like a cool, moist root run over their root system in prepared and amended soils with drip irrigation and organic mulch over the root zone, at least beneath the canopy. The chance of BBB infestation increases significantly because too few gardeners and landscape architects pay attention to those sustainability details.


Sadly, I find River Birch to be a poor substitute for White Birch and does not even come close to the latter's cultural attributes. I have found this tree to have substantial surface roots, which interfere with mowing, and are constantly dropping branches and twigs. They develop iron chlorosis on high pH soils and for this reason I would test the soil and make sure it reads pH 6.5 or below before planting River Birch.  


And it's a big tree, capable of growing 70 feet high with a 60 foot spread. Often excessively pruned because they outgrow their planting space, drooping branches are lopped off to the point where no branches remain on the bottom half. They can look ridiculous. Pruning certainly leads to an earlier than usual death and the tree would do better if not pruned at all.


If you do want a birch, choose a native birch. Make sure of the scientific name, for any birch with white bark is a "white" birch. Plant them on the east and north side of a home where they get afternoon shade. If you can't give them the environment they need, there are plenty of artificial birches available.

The swooping, pendulous branches of river birch make it a poor choice for the residential yard. This tree is over-pruned creating vigorous water sprouts which require constant maintenance.


A paper birch (Betula papyrifera), that is dying as a result
of bronze birch borer attack.


For more information on growing and maintaining healthy Birches
Thanks for reading. Happy Planting!    


Faith Appelquist

President & Founder


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