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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

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly


The intense heat ended with a bang last night and dropped as much as 50 degrees in some places. Yesterday's high was a miserable 112. It is back in the high 80s today and feels so much better. It is still hot though and I would like our regular highs in the 70s back please.

Watering again this morning and taking a closer look at the plants. Overall, the garden looks pretty good with more good-looking plants than bad ones. I think our diligent watering helped matters tremendously. I will remember the umbrellas next time though.

The above photo is one of the good areas. That is Pennisetum orientale 'Karley Rose', Wall Flower (Erisymum), Red Hot Poker (Kniphofia 'Poco Orange') and Smoke Tree (Cotinus 'Royal Purple') in the background.

A view of the Smoke Tree from the street -

More of the good include surprises like Japanese maples and daphne which appear unscathed. All of our maples in pots are in shady areas. My favorite one at the moment is 'Moonrise' -


 And even 'Golden Full Moon' which is notorious for burning appears fine. It get all afternoon shade which I'm sure helped and it is also in the ground -

'Golden Full Moon'

Some heat-loving perennials and annuals -

Balloon Flower



Veronica and Phlox



And while I would not consider snapdragons a heat-loving plant, I was surprised that these were not damaged. This has been my favorite annual this year.



The Pineapple Lily (Eucomis 'Sparkling Burgundy') looked like it had practically melted. I really thought one was a goner but it appears to be on the mend today. I am shading it again today and hoping for the best -

Eucomis 'Sparkling Burgundy'

Tree-wise, the 'Esk Sunset' maple (Acer pseudoplatanus) was not the disaster I expected that it would be. This is a tree that I wish I had planted in a shadier spot. It does seem to be acclimating fairly well to its full sun location.

'Esk Sunset' maple (Acer pseudoplatanus)

Another tree that should also have been planted in more shade is 'Skylands' spruce (Picea orientalis). However, it seems to be improving -

Picea orientalis 'Skylands'

I mentioned in my last post that two dwarf conifers had severe sun scorch. There were others that did not blink including this one which gets all day afternoon sun. This is either 'Valley Cushion' or 'Catherine Elizabeth'.

Picea abies 'Pusch', however, didn't fare as well. Notice the west side suffered the most -

Picea abies 'Pusch'

On social media, someone mentioned that their Spanish Fir was drooping. I had totally neglected ours with no supplemental water. It appears okay. I can't really tell if the top tips are falling because they are new or if that is heat related. It has really been growing!

Spanish Fir (Abies pinsapo)

The Stewartia, unfortunately, was burned and this is another tree that I wish was in a shadier spot.

Stewartia (Stewartia psuedocamellia)

The Wheel Tree (Trochodendron araliodes) also suffered a little. It does get afternoon shade but apparently it gets too much sun in the morning as well.

Many of the hydrangeas look sad today but not as many as I expected. I don't think I lost anything but some blooms. The Oakleaf hydrangeas fared the best and they look fantastic.

Oakleaf Hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia 'Snowflake')

Oakleaf Hydrangea 'Pee Wee'

The older paniculata hydrangea 'Ruby Slippers' (which gets full west sun) was impressive today -


The newly planted 'Quickfire' less so -

Hydrangea quercifolia 'Quickfire'

Sumac 'Tiger Eyes' (Rhus typhina)

Let's hope we don't get any more of these heat waves any time soon!

Text and photos by Phillip Oliver, Dirt Therapy


  1. I know nothing about Spanish Fir, hopefully its okay, maybe a good soaking is all it needs... the Stewartia is a little sad, but will probably be okay too. Otherwise, everything looks lush and green, thankfully. Love Pee Wee. I have one, pretty massive, in a shady spot; not blooming quite yet.

  2. You are the master of effective plant combinations, Phillip! The combination in the first photo is spectacular. I'm envious of your magnificent Cotinus too. I have the same variety but it's less impressive and has bloomed very little thus far. I'm glad to see that the injuries to your garden don't appear extensive and I share your hope that the heatwave you experienced is "one and done." I'm hoping we can avoid any heatwaves of that type this summer but, even though our marine layer is currently providing protection, I fear that's unlikely.

  3. Phillip I envy you those beautiful moon maples, they are gorgeous ! I used to have Tiger Eye Sumac and loved it but it became a little too naughty and was spreading the love a little too much.
    We have been hot and humid here .. the abnormal temps are becoming the new norm sadly.
    My garden would collapse if it wasn't for the sprinkler system and a little spot hand watering.
    My Japanese maples are hanging in thankfully .. fingers crossed for an early Autumn ? LOL

  4. I hope you don't get any more of that 100 degree business. That is scary especially in your area. We get it a couple of times per summer but I always hope it doesn't happen but it does. I am glad you don't have any worse problems. Keep cool

  5. A whole lot of good and not much ugly. Glad to see your garden did very well considering the terrible heat.

    That first photo is breathtaking. The whiteness of the grass plumes look like smoke rising.


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