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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

Keeping Cool with Hydrangeas

As the nation goes up in flames, both physically and figuratively, maybe it is a good time to look at hydrangeas, the plants that hate the heat as much as I do yet offer a cool, refreshing dose of tranquility as long as they are happy.

The hydrangeas have been doing great this season due to our cool and rainy spring. This week is another story, as we are in for a long stretch of 90+ days and probably at least two days at 100 or more. (((Sigh)))

This would happen right as the hydrangeas begin to reach their peak. I don't cut a lot of flowers to bring inside but I thought it would be worthwhile to do so if they are ruined in the garden. As you can see, I didn't go all out on this but did bring a bit of cheer inside -

I did do a thorough inventory of all the hydrangeas in the garden and photographed each one with the exception of the Climbing Hydrangea petiolaris which bloomed about a month ago. Altogether, there are 29. So far, I've only lost one - 'Wee Bit Grumpy' (yes, I bought it for the name alone). It barely survived the winter and I gave up on it recovering. 

The photo at the top shows 'Pistachio' and 'Twist n Shout'. Below is another view of 'Pistachio'. Color-wise, this is the most unusual hydrangea. Whoever thought of putting pink and lime green together? However, it works or at least I find it appealing -


'Twist-n-Shout' is a lacecap and I would say that the lacecaps are my favorites. I grew this one in Alabama too. It hasn't been too productive until this year and now it is blooming its head off. (It was threatened with shovel-pruning, a tactic that does seem to work sometimes). 

'Twist n Shout'

Not all of the hydrangeas are keeping their original color. I am usually not bothered by this but I will say that 'Miss Saori' (below) took a turn in the blue direction this year and I'd rather it be pink because the combination of the burgundy leaves and pink blooms is stunning. This year, that is not to be -

'Miss Saori'

Another changer is 'Summer Crush', a recent dwarf variety that grows to about 3'. All of the advertising photos show a strong pink color. I am not complaining about this blue though -

'Summer Crush'

My favorite color of hydrangea is the intense purple that I sometimes see in other gardens. I saw one like this just yesterday on a nearby street. So far, the closest to purple is 'Bloomstruck' which is advertised as purple and always seems to be close to that. This year however, it is more of an intense fuchsia -

Unknown ('Bloomstruck'?)

Or perhaps the following one is 'Bloomstruck' - there are two hydrangeas that I lost the name for. Both are growing in one of the terrace beds. The second one has both blue and pink flowers. It is quite a robust grower -

Unknown #2 ('Bloomstruck'?)

'Preziosa' is a favorite but it hasn't been as lovely as it was the first year when it had delicate pink-hued blossoms. It seems that they change every year. This year's flowers are a pale white - 


Several hydrangeas are vying for the most intense sky blue color - 

'Cityline Rio'

'Let's Dance Rave'

'Nikko Blue'

'Zorro' (it is there in the back) is such a tall hydrangea and I've yet to
find a good location for it. I love it for its black stems.

'Fire Island' from the Seaside Serenade series

'Lemon Wave'

'Outer Banks', another Seaside Serenade selection

'Pia' has always been puny and I suspect it was a bad plant from the start.
I wanted to get rid of it but Michael had babied it back to
health and wanted it to stay.

'Rotdrossel', terrible name but saw a beautiful specimen of this
 at Joy Creek Nursery.

Hydrangea serrata 'Spreading Beauty' - I wasn't familiar with this one until it appeared at the garden center. So far I like it but have a feeling it might become vigorous.

'Wedding Gown'

'Annabelle' - I can't imagine a garden without it.
 It does flop easily and wilts at the drop of a hat but a glorious sight. I would
lke to try the new and improved varieties.

'O-amacha Nishiki' is another mountain hydrangea (Hydrangea serrata). This one has not been vigorous and I recently moved it from the front garden to the back along the shady nature trail. 

And a few oakleaf varieties -

'Alice' - a huge oakleaf hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia) and one that I keep thinking needs to go. It blooms well though and does not present any problems.

'Ruby Slippers' - It is growing in full blazing sun, right next to the neighbor's driveway, and does extremely well there.

'Pee Wee' is a dwarf variety (to 3') and grows next to the pergola. 
 So far, not very floriferous. 

'Little Honey' - my favorite oakleaf.
I moved it this year and am being careful with it as I think it
may be getting too much sun. I have it covered with shade cloth during this week.

'Snowflake' - A lady called the garden center one day and asked if there was
 really a hydrangea named 'Snowflake'. She thought it was hysterically funny.
It wasn't until we had hung up that I realized it was the political connotation
that she thought was so amusing. Whatever, it has the largest and most pure white 
blooms that I've seen.

'Snow Queen' already starting to change color

And finally, some panicle types -

'Quickfire' - I prefer the lacecap-type blooms of the paniculatas
over the mophead ones. I suspect that this will get too big
for its britches. However, I have an alternative waiting in the wings -

Ta da - 'Little Quickfire' is supposed to
get half the size of 'Quickfire'.

'Vanilla Strawberry' has been slow to start but showing promise this year.

Text and photos by Phillip Oliver, Dirt Therapy


  1. 29 Hydrangeas! Your collection is spectacular. I love the plants too but, even though I had a couple in my former tiny garden, I wouldn't dare planting any in my current garden - I doubt they'd last a season here with the water restrictions we have in effect.

    1. Kris, I'm surprised I have so many. I had no idea!

  2. Goodness! I'm astonished you have room for so many. Do you prune them to maintain size? I grow 2 oakleaf hydrangea, for their foliage: little honey (in full sun) and pee wee, which over the years has grown quite large. I suppose your soil's ph is the reason for the shifting bloom colors.
    I really like the photo with hydrangea 'Snowflake': it's a lovely plant-and-crane vignette, and I believe I see a pittosporum there as well (their blooms have heavenly fragrance).

    1. A lot of them are still quite young. It is interesting to hear that your 'Little Honey' is in full sun. My leaves seem to burn easily but maybe it needs more time to get acclimated. That is a pittosporum in a pot. I don't know the name of it.

  3. I know that electric blue Rotdrossel at Joy Creek well. It is the bluest hydrangea I have ever seen. I managed to kill the first one I tried growing, and am now nursing along my second in a pot. It is an absolutely stunning variety. I have no room for it in my garden, but am saving it for someone else where I can admire it occasionally. Heaven knows that particular one is hard to find.

    1. The color of mine right now is totally different, kind of a bright fuchsia. I want it to be like the one at Joy Creek!

  4. I didn't even know there were 29 varieties of hydrangeas and I bet you don't have all that are available. What a nice collection.
    I saw the article about your garden in the August Fine Gardening Magazine. Congrats of having your garden highlighted.


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