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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

Plants of Interest for Winter - Evergreen Shrubs

In my earlier post last week, I showed some conifers in our garden that provide great winter interest. There are also quite a number of evergreen shrubs that are nice to have in the bleak winter months.

Acuba 'Rozannie' looks different from the variegated forms I see more often. This plant has done very well in the semi-shady border and has maintained a low height - only about 3 feet tall. I've read that it has red berries even without a pollinator. However, I've yet to see them. Still, the leaves are very attractive.

Osmanthus 'Goshiki' (False Holly) is another favorite. The name means "five colored" in Japanese and refers to the varying shades of leaf color. This is about five feet tall and wide, also in a semi-shady spot. However, I've seen this growing in all types of light and conditions. I've never noticed or smelled blooms on this one either. The Sweet Olive (Osmanthus fragrans) is a favorite of mine but it rarely seen here. I did finally find one and it is doing okay. I think I need to move it to a brighter spot although right now it is in a very protected area.

I have found an Osmanthus that does have the same fragrance of Osmanthus fragrans and it is Osmanthus x fortunei 'San Jose'. It blooms earlier in the fall and I find that fragrance intoxicating. This is a more upright shrub and really starting to grow. It is now 7' tall after three years. This would make a great hedge and I wish I had the nerve to replace our laurel hedge with this.

Arctostaphylos 'Sunset' (Manzanita) is a shrub for people who want to plant and forget. Very drought tolerant. It is also very pretty with small glossy leaves and a tiny bell flower in late winter and very early spring. My favorite characteristic is the bark, which is mahogany and gets more beautiful with age (like crape myrtles).

The Daphnes are all so wonderful. The most vigorous in our garden is 'Carol Mackie'. 

Daphne 'Briggs Moonlight' - I'm kicking myself over the placement of this one. It is stuck back along the front foundation behind larger plants. I brought this home from the garden center as a rescue and did not expect it to live. Well, it is thriving and I'm afraid to move it. 

Hebe 'Sunset Boulevard' - love, love this plant and so far, so good. Good drainage is essential. This is a plant that thrives on the coast. They can be sensitive to cold and I've lost a few in the past but the ones that have survived are going strong. 

Cistus 'Mickie'(Rock Rose) is a great plant but it just keeps getting bigger. I was reading a description that gives the height as "18 inches" - ha! It is 3 times that height and spreads wide. It flowers beautifully although I find the white color of the flowers a bit jarring with the foliage.

Euonymous japonicus 'Albomarginatus' - another favorite. This was already planted here when we moved in. It grows in our shade area. It is fantastic to light up a dark area and in the winter months, it really stands out. 

Mahonia 'Soft Caress' has been blooming for at least a month now. This is a more refined version of the larger "Oregon Grape" that blooms later in the winter and grows everywhere here. The mahonias provide a good food source for hummingbirds in the winter months.

Another Mahonia - this is Creeping Mahonia (Mahonia repens), a great groundcover plant. Only about a foot high but a nice spread (3'). Once established, they tolerate drought well.

Pieris 'Passion Frost' (aka "Andromeda" or "Lily-of-the-Valley Shrub"). I would venture to say that this is the most planted shrub in our area judging from drives around the neighborhood. Despite the over-use, they are valuable, easy-to-grow, and provide a solid presence in the winter garden. I have a number of them and have found them to be very slow-growing. I see some huge specimens around town though.

Fatsia 'Spider's Web' - really unique plant for a shady spot. It gets to be about 4' tall. 

Wax Leaf Privet (Ligustrum japonicum) is a shrub that I've thought about taking or moving to another spot but then I think about the wonderful smell of the flowers in late spring. Some people find it too intense. I love it - I would say it and the tea olive are my favorite fragrances. 

Mugo Pine (Pinus mugo 'Aurea') should have been included in the Conifers post but I forgot it. One of my favorite plants. The color is magnificent. 

Late but not least is African Boxwood (Myrsine africana 'Scarlet Marglin'). This is supposedly a frost tender plant. I've grown it for years in a pot. It sits undercover on the deck and I always throw a sheet over it when it on really cold nights (such as low 20s).

Text and photos by Phillip Oliver, Dirt Therapy


  1. Those are all quite fine shrubs. Funny that Ligustrum japonicum is a near universal background shrub here--because its probably the most overall reliable in this region-- while Pieris is almost non-existent.

    If 'Soft Caress' is a hummingbird magnet, then I think I need one. Your 'Spiders Web' and the variegated Myrsine are perfect.

  2. I've had my heart set on Myrsine africana 'Scarlet Marglin' after previously seeing it in your post. Now I'll add Daphne 'Briggs Moonlight' to that wish list. Instead of kicking yourself, get a second one: so gorgeous.

  3. Love how you're showing your glorious winter stunners. Such great plants. Cheers

  4. You've got a wonderful collection of shrubs. My own Mahonia 'Soft Caress' upped and died before it ever had a chance to bloom. I blamed the rabbits for chewing it down to a stick but, even after I gave it protection, it failed to rebound. My Cistus 'Second Honeymoon', also variegated with white flowers, leaped to great heights like your 'Mickie' - I think it might want to be a vine ;)


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