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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

Adding plants

There is a plan here...
Thank goodness the neighbors cannot see this or they would be thinking that Alabama rednecks had arrived. This is in the back and as you can see, the cardboard from all those moving boxes are being put to good use. This is the view directly from the deck. I envision enclosing this area with tall plants to form a room. If you look closely, you will see my beloved Pan statue lying near the back. The base was cracked during the move but Michael and I patched it this week with epozy. Now to get him off the ground. I cannot do it alone and I don't want Michael to hurt his back, so I ponder what to do. Maybe we will have a "Pan Raising" party but we don't know who we would invite! I will figure something out...

I have been planting in earnest. The past 4 days brought us another nice stretch of sunny skies and temperatures in the 60s. Hooray! I absolutely love the weather here. Even rainy days usually have periods of sun. Adjusting to temperatures and working outside requires some thought. I have learned that in the mornings, I put on a T-shirt or Henley underneath my outside shirt because it will be chilly up until 11-ish. Forget mowing grass in the morning - the dew (or rain) will not dry until late afternoon. Around 11, I shed the T-shirt and change into a light but long-sleeved shirt. Then, after lunch, the short sleeves go on. The highest temperatures do not occur until well into the afternoon.

Now, on to what I have been planting...

I am trying to get out of the habit, but I find myself purchasing the same plants that I grew in the old garden. Of course, there are many plants I want to grow out here that I am unfamiliar with. I go to the nursery, write down names of plants and come home and research them on the Internet. Occasionally, I will go back and actually buy something but it often takes me weeks to decide on something.

A must-have was the Rhododendron 'PJM' which seems to be the first to bloom. It is probably over-used but how can you resist that color? I want to add more rhododendrons and have been researching them diligently.

Lonicera "Lemon Beauty"

A plant I grew in Alabama that always got people's attention was Jerusalem Sage (Phlomis fruiticosa). This variety is called 'Quilted Leaf'. Here is how it looked in the previous garden.

A new plant for me -
Vaccinium glauco album (Himalayan Huckleberry).
On previous visits to Portland, a shrub that I feel in love with was California Lilac (Ceanothus). You always hear about blue flowers and then when you see them for yourself, you see that they are actually purple. Well, this is BLUE. This variety is 'Julia Phelps'. It should become a mounding shrub around 5 - 6 ft.
Camellia "Donation" - a plant I always admired in my guru Pam Harper's book. It doesn't look like much now but I had to have it.

Ann Lovejoy turned me on to Strawberry Tree (Arbutus unedo 'Compactus'). I am looking forward to seeing what it will do.

Take a look at this huge bud on this tiny rose plant. This is 'Home Run', my first time to grow it.
I have tried to select trees with care since we do not have a lot of room to grow them. In a mad moment, however, I purchased this one immediately after seeing it at the nursery. It is Persian Parrotia and I was a bit familiar with it from Ann Lovejoy's books.
A tree that a knew I wanted was Japanese Snowbell (Styrax). I planted one of these at the Unitarian Church in Florence and always wanted one for myself.

Pieris 'Passion Frost'

Blue Spanish Fir (Abies pinsapo 'Glauca') - this could mean trouble as it is supposed to get huge over time. I think I was mentally exhausted from weeks of trying to decide on conifers and when Michael said he loved this on, I failed to listen to reason and bought it.
It is very nice though!

Chamacyparis ‘Gracillis’ (Hinoki Cypress)
Cupressus ‘Swane’s Golden’

Cupressus macrocarpa ‘Wilma Goldcrest’
Laburnum ‘Pendula’ (Weeping Golden Chain) - another weak moment!

Now on to some plants that were already here in the garden. This little Japanese Maple (Acer palmatum  'Murasaki Kiyohime') is leafing out nicely.
Another Japanese Maple that was not labeled.

Another mystery shrub. Euonymous?
This Euphorbia is stunning. I do not have the name.

Not much progress on the raised beds. Notice that I am attempting some straw bale gardening.
Some signs of success!

Text and photos by Phillip Oliver, Dirt Therapy


  1. I got very excited for you when I saw all the cardboard in your garden, then I read your first sentence and nearly fell out of my chair laughing. The funny part about that sentence is you are probably right. ha... It looks like you have some fantastic first trees and shrubs. This makes me want to go out and purchase some new things for the garden.

  2. This is fun to watch Phillip and you're really making progress. So glad you're happy and enjoying the new gardening environment.

  3. Great to see the progress you're making! I remember clearly working out the whole "How should I dress for gardening and what temperature will it be by the afternoon?" question. Layers are good. It's good that you gave your Arbutus some room to grow, it will get pretty big despite the "Compactus' part of its name. It also drops lots of leaves pretty much all year. I'd like to recommend a great shrub species -- Arctostaphylos. Wonderfully drought tolerant in summer, beautiful red branches, evergreen. You can find lots of different ones at Xera. I think your unknown plant that you thought might be Euonymous is Mexican orange/Choisya ternata.

    1. If that is Mexican Orange, I will be so happy because that is a plant on my wish list! I will make a note of the one you mentioned.

  4. Get in touch with Danni from Critter Farm! I bet she'd help you raise Pan!! She is your new neighbor! And a sweetie to boot!

  5. Great plant choices. How fun it is to shop till you drop, when the garden still has room for all kinds of plants! I envy that unlabeled Japanese maple. It's magnificent. If you ever figure out what it is, do share.

  6. So glad you're loving your new home! We're happy to help with Pan (of course you know that).

  7. You really are diving in to gardening in the northwest! I'd have to study, study, study, and still I'd be wondering how to garden in such a strange climate. That blue conifer thing really is gorgeous. I hope it doesn't outgrow its new home!

  8. So happy to see your beautiful plant choices! Glad you two are settling in and I'm sure Pan will rise again.

  9. Bonito seu blog...lindas plantas....muito verde!!!
    Abraço Leila

  10. I think you've made some good choices here, Phillip.

    Arbutus unedo is definitely a plant that I would grow if I could. I think it's supposed to do very well in the PNW.

    Similarly, I've heard that blueberries, huckleberries, gooseberries, currants etc. will all thrive out there.

    Finally, I believe that Mahonias (recently reclassified to my irritation as Berberis) are lovely natives for your new region. Have you thought about adding Mahonia aquifolium or Mahonia repens?

    PS - Good choice on the Ceanothus too!

    1. Aaron, you are right. Berries do thrive here. Blackberries can be invasive if you are not careful. Mahonias are very popular and you see them everywhere. My next door neighbor has some in her garden. I will eventually add some.

  11. Some lovely selections, but I think you need more roses (of course). I just got 'Home Run' myself--your plant may be tiny but it is bigger than mine.

    1. I have planted about 10 so far I think. Of course there will probably be more!

  12. I wish you many more weak moments.


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