2 cups flour
2 tablespoons baking powder
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tsp salt
5 tablespoons cold butter
1 cup buttermilk
Preheat oven to 425. Combine flour, baking powder, sugar and salt in a large bowl. Cut butter into pats and incorporate into flour using a pastry blender until mixture resembles rough crumbs.  
Add milk and stir with fork until it forms a rough ball.
Turn the dough out onto a well-floured surface. Using hands, fold over gently a couple of times until ball holds together.  
Cover and let stand 30 minutes. Press into rectangle. Cut dough into biscuits. Place biscuits on cookie sheet and bake for 10-15 minutes.

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Aren't They All Pine Trees?   
Many years ago, I toured the Luther Burbank Gardens in California with my sister, who lives nearby. She always manages to have fun stuff like this on the schedule when I visit. We came across many trees neither of us could identify, but there was one that caught my eye. Glorious, immense, an evergreen type of tree. I asked a garden worker what is the name of this tree and he simply said "You're not from here, are you? It's a Sequoia Redwood."  
When I don't know the names of plants or trees, I feel like I have moved to a foreign country wearing a blindfold, earplugs and a muzzle. When a client told me her cat climbed up the pine tree on the side of the house and I looked to see an arborvitae instead, I understood the common misconception. Most people confuse spruce trees with pine trees, as we are programed to think that any tree with needles that stays green all year-round must be a pine tree.  
Now I make a point of taking a local tree book with me when I venture out of Minnesota. Even trained arborists can have trouble correctly identifying and differentiating between species of conifers, so I put together this simple guide of ten common conifers. And one more thing; there are three species that drop their leaves like deciduous trees: the larch, the bald cypress and the dawn redwood. If there is one takeaway message, it's that there are many more conifers than just pines in Minnesota.

Juniper (Juniperus) Needles very small 1/16 inch, with two types of leaves (often on the same tree), scale-like and needle-like. Berry-like cones, appear light green in spring and turn dark blue in fall, about 1/4 inch in diameter. Evergreen.

Douglasfir  (Pseudotsuga) Needles are flat, growing from stem in all directions, soft to the touch. Cones are 1-3 inches, soft, semi-wood scales with distinct 3-lobed bracts extending from each scale. Looks like mice running into holes. Cones are common on tree year round. Evergreen.

Fir (Abies) Needles are flat, curving outward and upwards. Pale blue- green above, silvery-grey below. Tightly arranged with a bottlebrush appearance. Cones on firs grow upright on the branch like candles. They fall apart at maturity leaving a cone core spike on the branch. Evergreen.
Hemlock (Tsuga) Needles are flat, attached to the twig in a spiral fashion, giving it a star-like appearance. Needles have 2 whitish bands beneath. Tips bluntly rounded. Cones are egg shaped, pendulous and can remain on the tree year round. Evergreen.
Larch (Larix) Up to a couple dozen needles grow in clusters from the end of small spurs along the twigs. The needles are about an inch long and are very soft.  The cones are about 1/2 inch in size. Deciduous.

Pine  (Pinus) Needles in bundles of 2, 3 or 5. You can usually identify a pine by the number of needles in each bundle. Needle length varies from 1 - 6 inches long. The cones are the largest you will find on any conifer. Unlike the thin scales on hemlock and spruce cones, pine cones have thick, woody scales and sharp-pointed tips. Evergreen.

Dawn Redwood (Metasequoia) Needles one-inch long, flat, soft and feathery. Green to yellow green. Cones are four-sided, box-like that hang on long stalks, round to cylindrical in shape, 1/2 to 1 inch long. Deciduous.

Spruce (Picea) Needles are ½-1 inch long, four-sided and stiff with sharp tips. Singly attached to the twig. Cones papery, pendulous, 1-6 inches long, brown when mature. Evergreen.

Arborivatea (Thuja)  Leaves are scale-like and arranged in flattened fan shaped groupings. Cones are under a half-inch long and look more like capsules than cones. Evergreen.

Bald Cypress (Taxodium) Needles very small, 1/4 to 3/4 inch long, resembling a feathery compound leaf. Cones attached along the length of the twig, Cones are composed of scales forming a woody, brown sphere with rough surfaces, 3/4 to 1 inch in diameter. Deciduous.

For more information on Conifer variations.
Don't Blame the Flowers
for your Allergies
Spring allergy season brings millions of sneezing and wheezing Americans to pharmacy aisles, health food stores and doctor's offices looking for relief. The causes and treatments of seasonal allergies are still the subject of some persistent myths. One common myth is that blooming flowers cause allergies. Actually, springtime allergies are caused by tree pollen, not flowers.  
Trees have to engage in sex by proxy, using the wind or animals such as insects, to get pollen from one tree to another. Plants with pretty petals, nectar and scent such as tulips, azaleas and crabapples attract insects for pollination. They make pollen that is designed to affix to their pollinators. Their pollen is sticky, produced in small quantities, and large so it is less likely to be floating around in the air, and doesn't lead to allergies.
Since wind-pollinated trees have no need to attract insects, they have done away with showy flowers. The result is insignificant looking flowers and catkins. It's the trees that don't have showy blooms- the oaks, hickories, maples, elms, ashes, birches and poplars - that make you miserable.  
Showy horsechestnut flower, non-allergenic

Insignificant red maple flower, allergenic

For more information on plants, pollen and allergies.

Thanks for reading.  
Happy Planting!    


Faith Appelquist

President & Founder


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