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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

A Look Back at the 2022 Garden

It is time to take a look back at the garden year of 2022. Normally, I post one favorite photo from every month. However, in looking back through my photos, I see that I didn't take many photos in January, February or even March. Of course, things really do not get going here until late April and May...

Once again, it was a year of extreme weather events. In April, we got 7 inches of snow. This was another record - the Portland/Vancouver area has never had a snowfall like this in April. It was a heavy, wet snow that really did a number on trees in the area. We did not have too much damage, thanks to me running around the garden shaking branches with a broom. The Strawberry Tree was damaged and still doesn't look good. We lost another branch last week when the ice came.


After the snow cleared, we got a freak hail shower that covered the ground in white again...


There is usually a winter project (although not this year) and last January, we had our deck floor and railings rebuilt. It would be May before things dried out enough to start staining it.

Michael staining the new deck rails in May.

I could not find a photo of the entire deck but here you can see the new railing. The floor is a Trex-like composite. It is a vast improvement over the old floor, which was deteriorating.

We have discovered that the floor of the larger deck underneath the pergola gets wet and doesn't dry out during the winter, probably due to it being in a shaded area as well as the constant moisture. It is also difficult to keep the leaves cleared. So, this year, we bought a large tarp to cover it and see if that helps. Michael sanded it down and applied a new coat of stain.

A new coat of stain on the pergola floor.

I wanted to replace the old plastic border around the grassy area in the Pan garden. I used pavers and got this done in May.

And finally, Michael took on a pebble mosaic project

Evening sunset over the front garden

A fresh layer of mulch and getting ready for the first Open Garden days.

May is for rhododendrons - this is 'Anah Kruschke' along with the Japanese maple 'Shaina'.


The roses begin to bloom in very late May and peak during June. This is 'Climbing Pinkie' over the pergola.

The rambler rose 'Phyllis Bide'

On the front gate, 'Dublin Bay' climbing rose along with lupine.

The borders in the front garden

Streetside border

In back, at the bottom of the terraced area. The rose is 'Mary Rose' Sumac 'Tiger Eyes' in a pot on the right.

The front gate with Clematis 'Jackmanii Superba'
and 'Dublin Bay' rose

'Veilchenblau' rose with lupine and Salvia 'Caradonna'

Lodgepole Pine 'Taylor's Sunburst' and roses 'Sea Foam' and
'Lady of Shallot' and Clematis durandii.

The shade border in late June

Looking down over the terraces in late June.
The tree is Persian Ironwood (Parrotia persica)


Cotula 'Tiffindell Gold' (Gold Buttons), 
Carex 'Bowles Golden' and Verbena

If June is for roses, then July is for hydrangea.
This is 'Twist N' Shout'.

'Essex' rose and lavender


In August, the colors are a bit duller and the garden
gets a looser and more wilder look.


One of the terrace beds with Phormium 'Rainbow Queen', Persicaria 'Golden Arrow', Hydrangea 'Pistachio' under the 'Wolf's Eyes' Dogwood

Hydrangea 'Little Quick Fire' and coleus in a
large pot on the terrace steps.


A foggy morning in October

Late October and the fall color begins


There is still color in November but the leaves
are beginning to fall.


Ornamental grasses and phormium looking good in early December

And here we are at the end of December and this year, it is wetter and it has been colder than last year. We've already had snow and an ice event at Christmas. Weather is always fascinating and who knows what January and February will bring? They can be bleak months but there is always that morning in March when the early morning sun looks brighter and new green shoots are sprouting on the limbs. It is always a thrill...

Text and photos by Phillip Oliver, Dirt Therapy


  1. Your garden photos are always full of the vivid colors I love - except those showing it blanketed in snow of course but even they're beautiful to those of us that don't have to deal with snow and the trouble it brings. The image of you shaking snow from trees makes me think of my own efforts to collect rainwater in the middle of a deluge ;) Best wishes for another bright and beautiful new year, Phillip!

    1. The things we do for our gardens! Happy New Year Kris!

  2. Your garden is stunning in all seasons with such diversity of textures and color. I hope Mother Nature is kinder this year and you have a great growing season! Happy New Year!

  3. When looking at your 'year in review' photos, one word comes to mind: exuberant! Absolutely stunning vignettes throughout. I've been following the evolution of your Vancouver garden from its start and I'm amazed how quickly you and Michael created this awesome jewel. Working in a nursery, I'm sure it's easy to buy cool plants. What do you do when you run out of room :-D ?
    I wish you both a wonderful year and joyous time spent in the garden.

    1. Happy New Year to you too Chavli. Well, I am already out of space. I find that I start to move plants around quite a lot. My new focus is to thrive toward more low maintenance plants and less containers this year. We will see!

  4. I enjoyed following your year in review and your garden is beautiful in every season with such a wonderful assortment of plants, bringing continued interest to the landscape. Happy New Year and wishing you a wonderful 2023 with gardens that thrive!

  5. You two have made a Botanic Wonderland. It is purely gorgeous no matter the month. I wish you both a Happy Healthy Growing year.

  6. Goodness, you two got a lot of wonderful improvements done this year, despite the long, wet and cold spring. I love all those long shots - just gorgeous!

  7. I virtually visit your garden every month, and this post still wowed me. I can’t get over how much it looks like it has been there forever. Great job guys!


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