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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

Christopher Mello's Garden

(Our vacation started earlier in the week with visits to other gardens in Raleigh, N.C., Richmond, Norfolk and Seaford, Virginia). We then headed back to Asheville for the Fling which officially started on Thursday evening with a meet and greet as a local jazz bar. On Friday morning, the garden tours began. I'm starting here with the gardens on the Garden Fling tour first. I'll be blogging about the other gardens on our trip later.)

Day 1 of the Asheville Garden Blogger's Fling started off with a bang with a visit to Christopher Mello's garden. The focus in this garden wasn't really the plants but a dazzling array of bottle trees and found objects including old rusty shovels and Tonka trucks (yes Tonka trucks!). Asheville is a meca for artists - an appropriate beginning for our tour!

Here is Mr. Mello talking about his artistic vision. I missed some of this because I was engrossed in photographing so you will have to refer to more attentive bloggers for the story behind this!
A circle of old shovels surrounds a gravel area filled with Tonka Trucks
Larkspur and company

It had rained the night before and the morning was overcast, perfect for taking photographs. We really lucked out on the weather. Most of the days were cloudy and cool. It seems like everyone grows poppies in North Carolina and you see them along the roadway borders as well. They were so beautiful. I love this combination!
A rusty trough of sedums with bottle tree (Smoke Tree - Cotinus coggygria)

Campanula (C. punctata "Cherry Bells") and Ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolius)
Stay tuned for the next garden on our tour, another artist inspired creation (this time with rocks, bricks and stucco) called "Wamboldtopia".

Text and photos by Phillip Oliver, Dirt Therapy


  1. Amazing what your eye saw that my eye missed! so much to take in at Christopher Mello's gardens...

  2. Gorgeous photos! It's amazing to see everyone's different perspectives and photographs on the same gardens. (I haven't even edited my photos yet!) I wish we had a chance to meet in Asheville--I think I was told you are an expert on rose varieties for shade--or am I making that up? Look forward to more posts!
    ~ Julie

  3. You captured it beautifully! I am really looking forward to seeing everyone's take on the different gardens.

  4. Julie, I'm sorry I missed you! I do know some roses that do well in shade. The hybrid musk roses seem to be the best for me. I have a lot of them profiled on my website at

  5. Phillip how did they do the bottles in the smoke tree? I love that idea. I've been collecting wine bottles to use as edging along my garden paths. This looks like a great trip to make. Mary

  6. Seaford?????? You were in Seaford??? Where did you go? Pam Harper's garden?
    We really did need to chat.
    The Campanula is 'Cherry Bells' according to Daricia, A Charlotte Garden.
    Great photos. We were on a different bus, so it was sunnier when we got to Christopher's garden. Love all the burgundy plants.

  7. Hi Janet, did I meet you?? Yes, Pam Harper's garden. I've wanted to see it forever and finally got the chance. I love that woman!

  8. Mary, you know, I didn't really notice how he did that. I think that smoke tree limbs are pretty stiff so I bet he just cut them off and stuck the bottles on there.

  9. Janet, sorry, I see that you are in S.C. now. Sorry for the confusion - we discussed earlier that we didn't get a chance to meet.

  10. That is ok, so many names and faces, hard to keep it all straight. Yes, Pam's garden is wonderful and she is a delight. You were about a half mile from my old house.

  11. Wonderful photos Phillip! Your capture of the circle of shovels came out so much better than mine. I love your vision.

  12. i really loved this garden and your photos of it are beautiful! i asked christopher about the campanula as everyone was walking to the bus...i have 'cherry bells' in my garden and thought it looked the same. he said, "you know, i think that's it!. tell the others that, if they want to know." so, there you have it. (species is C. punctata.)

  13. Enjoyed this garden very much because I love dark purples. Love how you photographed it too. It was great to finally meet in person. Waving to you both.~~Dee

  14. Well and beautifully documented, Phillip. Christopher Mello's garden is one of my favorite spots in West Asheville, along with Wamboldtopia. Such talented and creative gardener/artists!


  15. Hi Phillip,

    This is absolutely delightful. I Love this kind of garden...sort of a 'wild child'. Beautiful!!

    Am looking forward to seeing more of the gardens you & Michael visited.

    gerri XXXX

  16. Fun to see the artistic interpretations of gardeners. Thanks for sharing.

  17. Thanks for these wonderful pictures and your account of your experience of the first garden from the Fling! I missed this year and I've been feeling starved for pictures!

  18. I am so glad that you identified those Cherry Bells. I want to try that plant in my garden. I saw it in several gardens but no one was around that could tell me what they were. Christopher's garden was a treasure. I especially liked Shovelhenge.

  19. So striking! I'm putting a mention of this post on my blog--including a photo. I hope that's OK. Citing attribution of course. Let me know if you want me to change it.


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