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Homemade Pretzels

I haven't made homemade pretzels since we were in Alabama and I had forgotten how easy they are if not a little time consuming. I made these last week for Oscar night. They keep a long time in an airtight container. 1   (.25 ounce) package   active dry yeast 1 tablespoons   brown sugar 1  teaspoons   salt 1 ½   cups   warm water (110 degrees) 3   cups   all-purpose flour 1   cup   bread flour 2   cups   warm water (110 degrees) 2   tablespoons   baking soda 1-2   tablespoons   butter, melted 2   tablespoons  kosher salt Line two or three baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside. Place the yeast, brown sugar and salt in the 1.5 cups of warm water. Stir to dissolve. Stir in the flour. Knead for about 7-8 minutes. Place in a greased bowl and cover. Let it rise for an hour (I place mine in the oven with the light on). Combine the two cups of warm water with the baking soda in a square shallow pan. After the dough has risen, cut it into 12 equal pieces.  Roll each section into a

Visiting Maria's garden again

The Master Gardeners took a field trip to Maria Wall's garden on Saturday. I've been there countless times but I never tire of touring her garden and I'm always amazed at what she has accomplished. That is Maria in the photo on the right standing next to a bed of giant hostas and azaleas. She is under 5' tall but don't let that deceive you!

We first met Maria when we were just starting out garden. A co-worker of Michael's lived in Maria's neighborhood and arranged a visit with her. Every beginning gardener should visit someone like Maria - you will either go home full of inspiration or feel like a wimp after seeing what she had done.

First of all, her garden is on a steep hill. The front lawn is covered in lush green moss and punctuated with beds of ferns, hosta and azaleas. Another small area lies in back of the house, which features a fish pond and a collection of flowers that attract hummingbirds. This is the only area that gets sun.

From there, it is a steep descent down hill (walking canes are provided!). Large railroad ties serve as steps to help you get down but this is a slow walk because there are lots of beautiful plants to see along the way down.

At the bottom, the Tennessee River backs up to her property. It is this area that is the most magical.

Maria has carved out natural springs which led to the river. Mossy paths lead from one amazing garden to the next and water features are everywhere. She has a canoe and collects rocks and driftwood which is used for focal points and various projects.

Trees fall frequently in her woods and when they do, Maria always comes up with a plan on how to use them. Every trip I make to her garden, I'm always seeing something new.

Shade loving plants, like ferns, hosta and impatiens are abundant. One plant that you see everywhere is this lovely peacock moss (Selaginella uncinata) (below), growing next to hosta.

There are many sitting areas and Maria's garden is the ultimate place to relax. The only sounds are water and birdsong and even on a hot day, it is remarkably cool.

The tour of the bottom garden ends in an open area that has places to sit and relax, even cold drinks in the a basket under the bridge in the stream.

Then it is back up hill again on the opposite side of the garden. Along the way are grottos and "moss galleries". Back near the top is another sitting area where Maria has graciously provided snacks and drinks. There is also a miniature train and I forgot to take a photo of it.

Maria is a true friend and an inspiration to gardeners everywhere. I wrote my first article for Alabama Gardener about her garden. She has also appeared in Southern Living and two books about Alabama gardeners.

Text and photos by Phillip Oliver, Dirt Therapy


  1. It looks like an incredible garden! Thanks for sharing the photos!

  2. What a spectacular garden !
    A little paradise, all tucked away under those cool leafy canopies...
    How did you drag yourself away ?
    Thank you for sharing this precious place with us..

  3. What a magical place! She has done so much. It all looks wonderful.

  4. It's beautiful! Thanks for sharing it!

  5. Phillip, How strange! I spent 1/2 of yesterday evening describing Maria's bluffside garden and our visit. Of course, the topic of your garden crept in a few times. I think I convinced a few friends to roadtrip to the quadcities for a garden tour. Miss you!

  6. What a lovely garden! Thanks for taking the photos and letting us enjoy them!

  7. That's really cool! I really enjoyed reading about and seeing the garden in pictures. The garden looks like its in the pacific north west in some of the pictures. Amazing!

  8. What a treasure, both the Lady and her garden. I could just sit and gaze at these photos. I can only imagine what it would be like to actually stroll through her garden.

  9. I wish I could go there sometime!

  10. Maria herself is a wonder of nature! Her garden is like a little of bit heaven. I adore the rustic fencing, it adds a feeling of age and timelessness to the shady surroundings. Thanks for showing us. What a great photo at the end. You both look marvelous! :-)

  11. This trulu looks like a magical spot.

  12. Phillip, Her garden is fantastic and lush...I can almost imagine the earthy fragrance and feel the cool damp on my arms. Thank you for the tour~gail

  13. Phillip I forgot to add this about Clotilde Soupert -- for the first time in 2 years CS is balling, but we're getting a lot of welcome rain. I can really only speak of spring and fall because June-August the Japanese Beetles eat everything!

  14. What an amazing garden she has created. It seems almost like an impossible task for one woman. I really enjoyed seeing her garden. Wish I lived closer.

  15. It took me 3 tries to get blogspot to let me comment today (error 503)...

    Anyway...a fabulous garden. I love the woodland walks.

  16. It's a very nice place. I love how it integrates well with the surrounding area, flowing from one site to the next. I'm a huge fan of those derelict looking fences!

  17. There is something so refreshing about the play of light and shade in this garden. And the use of water? Magical!

    Christine, Publisher Anarchist Potager

  18. Paradise? Or a fairy tale world?? Fabulous!

  19. I saw an article with pictures on her garden when I first moved to Alabama (Aug 2007)! It was so fantastic - I have it somewhere in a safe place - never to be seen again...

    It was inspirational and totally turned me on to moss. I rejoice the more it infiltrates my lawn.

    I, too, loved the fencing. Now I know what to do with all the prunings that I've been saving up.

    Thanks so much, Phillip. Sorry this is so long.

    Barbara H.

  20. Beautiful woodland feel, totally relaxed.

    I love all the structures.

  21. This is gogeous! Exactly what I want on part of my future 100 acres (need a stream, some woodland, and lots of open prairie). And a pond. And a swimming pool. You got me going now.

  22. Phillip, love your entry about Maria. She is so sweet. We attend church together and she is such a blessing to our parish.

  23. Spectacular! I adore natural looking gardens; Lots of effort put into maintenance but actually, all looks as if minimum intervention is needed. Wonderful.


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