The ham bone had been in the freezer since Easter. Our little cold snap inspired me to put on a pot of pinto beans to simmer with the ham bone. Cornbread and collard greens rounded out the warm and filling meal on a cold Friday night (Oct 11th). Good thing since I had pulled out, trimmed, repotted and moved plants all day.

The ham bone had been in the freezer since Easter. Our little cold snap inspired me to put on a pot of pinto beans to simmer with the ham bone. Cornbread and collard greens rounded out the warm and filling meal on a cold Friday night (Oct 11th). Good thing since I had pulled out, trimmed, repotted and moved plants all day. Saturday morning the temp dropped to 31 degrees at my house (28 degrees in OKC). The tropicals happily kept warm in the heated greenhouse. The citrus trees were zipped up in their plastic bubble with heater. The outdoor plants weathered the cold with gusto.

In September, Dr. Yoon Kim, Shawnee feral bee rescuer and beekeeper, discussed honey bees with the Multi-County Master Gardeners. He is currently putting together an order for bee packages scheduled for arrival next March. A bee package weighs about 3 pounds and contains worker bees (10,000-12,000), a queen bee housed in her own cage and nutritious sugar syrup within an open-screened box. Each package costs about $130 plus shipping.

When the package arrives, a hive should be set up and waiting. Online starter beehives are available as well as bee tutorials on how to begin. Dr. Kim will help those interested in trying their hand at beekeeping. The Master Gardeners submitted their orders for bee packages last Wednesday. If you are interested, have questions or want to add your name to the list, there’s still time. Contact Dr. Kim at 405-432-9352, through, or e-mail at

“Current Challenges in Horticulture and landscape Architecture” Conference was held October 10th in the Wes Watkins Center at Oklahoma State University. Venezuela’s last glacier, the Humboldt, is about to melt away. Bird species are decreasing. Have your attention?

Dr. Niels Maness introduced “Diabetes to Cancer.” Oklahoma ranks nearly #1 in the three types of diabetes (14% of OK adults). Maness and his team began their pilot pecan project January 2019 to examine medicinal and nutraceutical values of pecan fruits. Pecan oil is highly mono-unsaturated, heart healthy and fights inflammation. Oklahoma is in the native pecan range. Maness’s research has demonstrated external application of pecan oil can stop bleeding of wounds and allow faster healing with less infection. It helps that this year’s pecan crop may be one of the largest in years.

Eastern Redcedar (ERC) and cancer therapy is another project. ERC foliage contains Ptox (podophyllotoxin), used in anti-cancer therapy. Currently the plan is to scale up the processes of extraction, purification and develop a business plan.

Dr. Cheryl Mihalka is a champion of regional gardens. In “Native is not Enough”, she has observed we struggle to have gardens and yards fit European standards. We need to pattern our gardens after the local landscape. Celebrate where you are. Ecoregions offer strategies for garden design. Look at the natural plant communities and arrangement of natural elements. Observe the grasses, sumacs, redbuds in open areas, rocks, wildflowers and groves of trees. Repeat this in your own garden. Utilize your space and select plants without mercy (not necessarily all natives) that will live several seasons with tonal composition and color. If you must have annuals, put them in pots. Create a garden with a loose feel and artistic design you will enjoy.

Dr. Mike Schnelle educated us about “The Relevance of Plants’ Origins.” Oklahoma has over 3,700 plant species; the entire US has 18,000. Nativars (cultivars bred specifically from native species) may not be at all like their parents and pollinators often do not utilize these variants. The buttonbush normal fruit color is white, but the ‘Sugar Shack’ nativar has red fruits. ‘Magic Fountain’ weeping persimmon was a chance sapling that appeared 2007 in a nursery in Tennessee with no hybridizing or breeding. This mutation is on the market.

Trifoliate Orange produces bitter seedy fruits, considered an invasive from China and Korea, but has a silver lining. The hardy roots support today’s US citrus crops. In the agronomic arena, Camellia sinensis, source of tea, is usually grown in China, India or Sri Lanka. Artisan tea farms in the US are now sprouting up, and the large-scale commercial Bigelow tea plantation has operated in Wadmalaw Island, South Carolina, for years. The tea plants are descendants of plants from China brought over in the late 1700’s. They grow in sandy soils, receive 52 inches of rainfall /year and love their sub-tropical climate, at least for now.

Sometimes exotic counterparts perform better in cultivation or not, such as Kudzu, Japanese Honeysuckle, and Chinese Privet. Out-of-control plant reproduction can be limited by shutting down fertility using Gamma radiation, the market of male cultivars, or employment of chemicals or genetic based techniques to induce extra or fewer genes. Native plants themselves may become problematic if their ecological balance is disturbed. So much can’t be predicted.

Dr. Misha Manuchehri explained integrated weed management. Herbicides take 10 years to develop, but resistance, safety, nontarget hits and cost often encounter unforeseen problems. Plants are adaptive. The future: application of natural herbicides, use of tolerant crops and competitive breeding programs.

Dr. Renee McPherson stunned us with her statistical collection of weather data, climate change and future predictions. She explained the external natural causes (Earth’s orbit, sun, comet) and the internal natural causes (oceans, atmosphere, land masses). Key Point: Higher frequency of certain events or trends indicate climate change. The 2017 Climate Assessment determined human influence is the dominant cause of the rapid escalation of greenhouse gases.

Projection 2041-2070: 20-45 days above 95 degrees annually increasing mid-century, summer low temps increase 2.5-6.6 degrees, decrease 2-10% precipitation, esp in western OK, 5-35 fewer cold days, last spring freeze 10-25 days earlier. Unless we adore messed-up seasons and disturbed food and water supplies, our limited options: lower our energy demands and switch most solid and liquid fuels to electricity generated by sustainable carbon sources. Short term (next 100 years): use nuclear energy. Grow hot temperature drought tolerant plants and pest-resistant trees. Reduce, recycle, reuse. It’s coming.

Dr. Justin Moss deciphered the OKC and Edmond water resources, politics, pricing and maintenance of irrigation systems. He couldn’t emphasize enough the importance of conservation of water.

The final speaker was Dr. Carol Powers with “Genetically Modified Organisms.” What GMOs are not: plant breeding programs, cross pollination, chemical mutagenesis or human selection. GMOs are transgenic crops involving gene transfer that do not naturally occur. Desired traits may be insect and disease tolerance, increased nutrition, shelf-life or enhanced growth. The first GMO plant was tobacco in China in 1981. The US Flavr Savr tomato arrived in 1994 followed by squash, soybeans and corn. No commercial GMO wheat currently exists, but the US soybean crop is 90% GMO, corn 80% and Canola oil 50%-60%. If not on board for GMOs, buy certified organic. The bees agree.

Although honey bees may have originated in Southeast Asia and don’t play a part in the wind-pollinated pecan, they need a healthy environment. These insects are so important in orchards, farms, home gardens, and natural ecosystems. Eighty percent of US crops depend on the little honey bee. I stood outside to take a picture of the hummingbird feeder swarming with my feral bee colony. They flew around me, checked out my phone, face and pink hoodie. These are the progeny of the bees that first colonized my shed more than fifteen years ago. Powerful sweet tooth. Must be family!

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