People stand in awe of my garden, once I point out to them where each plant is. As with my interest in native plants, my garden assumes a natural approach. Simple. Sustainable. Rugged.

People stand in awe of my garden, once I point out to them where each plant is. As with my interest in native plants, my garden assumes a natural approach. Simple. Sustainable. Rugged.

I am very proud of my radish. Yes, I have one radish. It started sprouting in the veggie drawer. All those lovely green leaves told me how much this little radish wanted to live. I moved it to the base of my one living orchid. The radish basked in the water at the base of the orchid… until it didn’t. One by one the little leaves shriveled and went away. Soon, only the little radish bulb remained, but when I pulled it out, the determined radish had once again begun growing new tiny roots. The weather forecast was mild, so I gently removed the radish and carried it outside where it was planted in its own modest pot. Why deal with rows of radishes when you can focus on one radish and watch it live and grow.

The two Earth Boxes, self-watering planters dedicated to tomatoes, turned into Evening Primrose factories last spring and summer. Enormous primroses benefitted from the organic tomato fertilizers and bone meal. By summer’s end several towered over 15 feet tall. You had to get a pair of binoculars to see the beautiful yellow blooms at the tips. The tomatoes? They produced lots of vines and leaves and few tomatoes. Probably too embarrassed and overwhelmed by the Evening Primroses.

Three mini-dwarf acorn squash were harvested from my Grow Box. While both planters are the same size, 12” wide x 12” tall x 36” long, the Grow Box has an opening in the front of the reservoir; the Earth Box has a pipe in one corner. Two years I grew heirloom corn. It was an act of love. So much attention and water, such little ears of corn.

One last tidbit straight out of the April/May 2019 issue of “Mother Earth” magazine. For sure-fire greens, plant fresh beet roots from the store. They will sprout very edible leaves and stems that can be eaten raw or prepared like swiss chard, spinach, or bok choy. On their own they form an instant garden full of nutrition. My kind of garden!

April Fool’s Day, no foolin’, was the peak bloom day for cherry trees around the Tidal Basin in Washington D.C. Peak bloom: seventy per cent of the Yoshino cherry blossoms are open. The bloom period will last from 7 to 10 days, perhaps two weeks weather permitting. The history of the cherry trees is fascinating.

In 1887, Eliza Scidmore campaigned to have cherry trees planted along the new re-formed Potomac River basin. Eliza’s actions were ignored, but this accomplished woman did become the first female board member of the National Geographic Society. During a cherry blossom party hosted by Eliza, botanist David Fairchild was so impressed, he ordered 1,000 cherry trees to be sent to his home in Chevy Chase, Maryland. He planted cherry trees and donated cherry trees to every school in the D.C. area for students to plant on Arbor Day. Eliza attended the Arbor Day speech and was motivated to raise money for cherry trees. She contacted First Lady Helen Taft.

By coincidence, J. Takamine, the Japanese chemist who discovered adrenaline, heard about the cherry tree plan. He and Japanese Consul Mr. Midzuno asked the First Lady if she would accept 2,000 cherry trees as gifts from Tokyo, Japan. She did. The trees arrived in 1910 but the Department of Agriculture inspection revealed nematodes and insect problems. These trees were supposedly destroyed by burning, but the legend is some trees were spirited away and planted elsewhere. One old grove still reputedly exists. Despite the 1910 setback, a clean shipment of 3,020 cherry trees (12 cultivars) were shipped February 12th, 1912 on the Japanese Ocean Liner Awa Maru from Yokohama to Seattle. They then boarded insulated freight cars and rode on trains across the country to arrive at Washington, D.C. March 26th 1912.

First Lady Helen Taft and Japanese Viscountess Chinda, wife of the Japanese ambassador, planted the first two trees at the Tidal Basin. These trees are still alive today. In 1965, First Lady Lady Bird Johnson accepted as gifts an additional 3,800 Yoshino cherry trees grown for Japan in the US.

Weeping cherries and other species are mixed with the Yoshino cherries, which comprise about 70% of the trees. Twelve percent are Kwanzan cherry trees. Yoshino trees produce clouds of single white blossoms, but Kwanzan trees bloom two weeks later than the Yoshinos and re-energize the area with pink double blossoms. Arborists and horticulturists have meticulously cared for the old trees that usually live only 60 years. Many began to die. Botanists in the 1980’s began taking cuttings from the living trees. They nurtured the little saplings in greenhouses for years as a way to continue the genetic line. In 1997, 500 new trees from the ancestors replaced their forebearers. More descendants are growing that will continue to be a source for new trees. The original 1912 trees seem to be gifts that keep on giving.

I found weeping Yoshino cherry trees being sold at one Shawnee store. The tree needs good sun, adequate drainage, tops out at 20 feet, hardy to -10 degrees F and blooms early to late spring. Can hardly wait to see how the little tree fares.

Another tree became famous on April 2nd. Oklahoma Baptist University (OBU) celebrated their Arbor Day by planting a Cedar of Lebanon. Two years in a row OBU has been recognized as “Tree Campus USA” and has the only accredited Arboretum in Oklahoma. School, state and city dignitaries, students, master gardeners, groundskeepers, and tree lovers were all in attendance. Chairs and sound system were provided for the short dedication that took place in front of the tree. Master of Ceremony was Lisa Hair, groundskeeper II/gardener at OBU.

Cedrus libani is the botanical name for this evergreen conifer. The true cedar is native to the mountainous regions of Lebanon, Turkey and Cyprus. It can become quite enormous, reaching over 120 feet up and expanding out 80 feet. Not to worry for this tree is a slow grower. The cones go up from the branches, reaching to the sky. The aromatic tough wood, used to build palaces and temples 3,000 years ago, was highly praised in the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament).

A fitting tree for Oklahoma Baptist University. After the ceremony, a few stakes and tie-downs, a little more soil, perhaps some mulch and this tree is set to have a great future.

Think the peach, apricot and plum blooms escaped the last cold spell by the skin of their fruit? We’ll see!

Becky Emerson Carlberg, graduate of Oklahoma State (Plant Pathology) is a teacher, artist, writer as well as certified Oklahoma Master Gardener and Master Naturalist. Contact her at