Couscous Salad with mint, cucumber and feta

1 cup dry couscous 
1 ½ cup water 
1 medium cucumber, peeled and finely chopped (2 cups) 
½ cup coarsely chopped mint 
¼ cup olive oil 
Juice and zest from 1 lemon, more as needed 
1 ear cooked sweet corn, kernels cut from the cob 
1 cup feta cheese

Bring water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Stir in couscous. Cover, remove from heat and let stand 5 minutes. Rinse with cold water to stop cooking. Drain. Stir in cucumber, mint and corn.

In a small bowl, mix the olive oil, lemon juice and zest. Stir in feta. Add the feta mixture to the couscous and season with 1 tsp kosher salt, ½ tsp pepper.

Transfer to a serving bowl and garnish with mint sprigs.

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Branching Out with Faith Appelquist

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Carpenter Ants in Trees

Some homeowners rank carpenter ant infestations at the same level of termites. Termites, it should be clarified, eat and digest wood, whereas carpenter ants only nest in wood and do not consume it. Carpenter ant nests are very common inside trees, especially older trees that are hollow or have a significant number of dead limbs and branches. The nests are usually in rotted, decayed wood, although some nests may extend into sound heartwood in the center of the tree.

Carpenter ants in trees are not directly harmful to the tree. Control is not essential for the tree's health, as the ants are only taking advantage of an existing situation of soft, weak wood in which to establish their colony. Stress, mechanical injury, environmental conditions, disease, or other insects are responsible for killing limbs or sections of the trees in which the ants are able to nest. Once injury has occurred, wood decay can set in if moisture is present; it is the wood decay that gives the carpenter ants the opportunity to colonize the tree. Carpenter ants use knots, cracks, holes and old insect tunnels to gain access to these areas.

Control of carpenter ants inside trees is difficult but can be done as a way to reduce invasion of the ants into adjacent structures. It is also possible for ant colonies located inside trees to form satellite colonies inside a nearby home wall. Available controls are not likely to permanently rid a tree of carpenter ants so re-treatment every year or so may be necessary.

I don't advise plugging or sealing tree cavities or treating tree wounds with wound dressings. Such treatments are unnecessary and will not eliminate or prevent decay or carpenter ant activity. Also, cutting down otherwise healthy trees that happen to be infested with carpenter ants is generally not necessary.

Carpenter ant management in living trees has always been a debated question among arborists. I view these ants as beneficial because they indicate decay in trees, provide a food source for birds and other animals and help in forest recycling.

There are over 900 species of black carpenter ant (Camponotus) worldwide and vary considerably in color and size.

Workers take mouthful-sized chips of wood to the nest entrance, where they deposit the chips. This results in soft mounds of the hollowed out wood at the base of a tree. 

For more information on Carpenter Ants in Urban trees. 
Ignoring Seasons
An often overlooked consideration in planting design is to plan for different seasons of the year. Where I live in the north, summer is a relatively short three months or so out of the entire year. What about the other nine months? Does the landscape disappear then?

A frequent mistake is to design exclusively for summer, a problem that is reinforced by countless plant catalogs and books. A successful planting design is one that considers all seasons and creates a landscape that is equally as attractive in December as it is in June.

Plants are not static elements and they respond to seasonal changes. Almost every geographic region has distinct seasons of one type of another. Spring, summer, autumn, and winter are the most notable seasons. Some regions experience recurring cycles of rain, humidity or wind that establish seasonal variations.

Thinking in terms of seasons creates a garden that satisfies throughout the year. For example, different plants emphasize flowers in spring, attractive foliage in summer, vibrant color in autumn, and interesting bark, persistent fruit or branch structure in winter - be sure to include each one in your composition.

Using your imagination to combine plants so that the garden looks astonishing in and out of season is what can make you stand out among other landscape architects, designers or gardeners who repeat the mistake of ignoring seasons.

Smiling tulips and daffodils are a welcome sight after a long winter. Photo credit: Stephanie Town

Grasses offer great summer interest with their beautiful plumes. Don't cut them down until spring ....they look pretty in the winter too.

Bright berries linger on the many varieties of Viburnum, including the American high bush cranberry  (Viburnum trilobum), that can hang on until spring, if the birds don't eat them.


The Amur Chokecherry is radiant in the winter season when its bark presents a stark contrast to the snow.

For more information on landscaping the four seasons.

Thanks for reading. Happy Planting!     

Faith Appelquist
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