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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

Signs of autumn

The front border along the street

I am deeply saddened by the destruction and loss of lives from Hurricane Michael (of all names!). If you've read my blog in the past, you probably know that every year in late October, we would go to the Florida panhandle for our anniversary. Although we never stayed in Mexico Beach, we were just right up the road on Highway 30-A and sometimes in Destin. If you've seen my vacation photos (just type in "Florida" in the search box), you know that it is a spectacularly beautiful area. I don't know how the neighboring communities have fared but I do hope that they can recover from this as soon as possible. We miss going there every year.

On to cheerier things - autumn is arriving in the Pacific Northwest and the colors are beautiful. I love this time of year. The rainy season, which is usually here by now, has been delayed. We did get some much needed rain for three or four days in a row last week but now it is back in the lower 70s and no rain in the forecast. But - oh yeah - there is no such thing as global warming, right?

Stewartia pseudocamellia
During the past month, I have added five new trees to the garden. We are in desperate need of shade and I feel that the garden is missing something with the lack of trees. There is also a change in the landscape plans. I am removing the vegetable garden and it is going to be replaced with a courtyard. Hopefully, a shady courtyard. More on that later!

The new trees include a Stewartia, one that was on the top of my list for a long time. It is an incredibly beautiful tree that has camellia-like flowers. It has already changed color and is currently a vibrant orange that just glows. It is awesome.

Another new addition is the Black Tupelo (aka Black Gum or Pepperidge). This is a Southeastern native deciduous tree that has vibrant red leaves in the fall. Fall color is a top priority for me and that is one of the major reasons I chose this one. Another good reason is that they provide a good source of food for bees. However, I have not seen a mature one in this area although it is often listed as a good tree to grow here. The only negative drawback I came across is that the blue-black berries it produces might be messy. I hope that isn't the case as it has been planted in the courtyard area. Maybe the birds will devour the berries first.

Sourwood (Oxydendrum arboretum)

The trees that were planted earlier are all doing nicely. The leaves on the Sourwood are beautiful right now with bright red foliage. The tree as a whole looks like a mess though. It is a slow grower and the limbs just flop over. Michael staked it but I'm not sure if this is a good solution. Maybe this tree is supposed to do this. I am hoping for a growth spurt next year.

Persian Ironwood (Parrotia persica)

The Persian Ironwood (Parrotia persica), highly touted as an outstanding tree for fall color is slowly beginning to turn. So far, it is a very narrow tree which is fine.

Dogwood (Cornus kousa 'Celestial Shadow') and Aster 'Purple Dome'

This poor little Kousa Dogwood is highly stressed and I wish I had never planted it in full sun. I have thought about moving it but I don't really have a good spot for it.

The big pink dogwood that was already here is very nice. The area under it is one of the few shady areas we have.

Weeping Redbud (Cercis 'Ruby Falls')

The winner for fall foliage has to go to the little Weeping Redbud. This is the 'Ruby Falls' variety and the dark burgundy foliage has slowly been changing into a kaleidoscope of colors.

More autumn lovelies -

Staghorn Sumac 'Tiger Eyes' (Rhus typhina 'Bailtiger')

Acer palmatum 'Sango Kaku'

Acer palmatum 'Bihou'

Strawberry Tree (Arbutus)

Beautyberry (Callicarpa 'Profusion')

Bluestar (Amsonia hubrichtii) and Geranium 'Rozanne'

Jasmine officinale 'Fiona Sunrise' and Black-Eyed Susan Vine (Thunbergia alata)

Knotweed (Persicaria microcephala)

Japanese Red Pine (Pinus densiflora 'Golden Ghost')

And last, but not least, Switch Grass (Panicum virgatum 'Shenandoah') -

Text and photos by Phillip Oliver, Dirt Therapy


  1. What a gorgeous collection of fall foliage plants. Just stunning

  2. Oh Phillip, your new garden is beginning to show its personality.
    Your amsonia is ahead of mine in autumn color. It is probably in more sun than mine are.
    I thought about your Michael when we started hearing about the hurricane coming through. I am glad you guys weren't down there when it hit.

    1. Thanks Lisa. The amsonia is in full sun. It is a bit crowded by the geranium. :)

  3. Your garden looks fabulous in autumn ! I think I need more tree as well.

  4. Your garden wears it's autumn finery well and your new tree selections are wonderful. Happy fall!

  5. Your garden is looking simply magnificent, and you selected some really beautiful trees for your young garden. The Stewartia is very choice.

    Having been somewhere that later suffered disaster makes the disaster much more vivid than seeing it in the news. The hurricane did terrible destruction. I hope the area is able to recover and that you get a chance to visit it again.

    1. Thank you! The Stewartia is my favorite at the moment. The color is just incredible.

  6. Don't you just love Autumn? Stunning colors everywhere. If I had more room in the garden I'd want to plant a Stewartia. I like their structure and they have nice bark too fro winter interest.


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