After receiving her bachelor’s degree in horticulture from Oklahoma State University, Casey Hentges did commercial landscaping in Dallas. There, she noticed that she enjoyed public discourse surrounding horticulture topics, and decided to return to school to get her master’s in public garden management from the University of Delaware. Hentges then got connected with the OSU Extension office in Canadian County, where she addressed consumer horticulture concerns and trained Master Gardeners, then later worked at Myriad Botanical Gardens. About six years ago, Hentges accepted a position as an OSU State Extension Horticulture Specialist, with a primary responsibility of hosting and producing the Oklahoma Gardening television show. We caught up with Hentges and got her thoughts on … 

… her love of horticulture.

I was a very inquisitive child and loved being outside, and I knew I wanted to be in the field of horticulture at a very early age. My parents, who were both teachers, fostered my interest in plants. When I was in middle school, I didn’t like reading but enjoyed looking at my mom’s gardening magazines. My dad made a deal with me: if I learned the name of a plant and how to care for it, then he would buy the plant for me. After seeing flowering water plants growing in nearby ponds and streams, water garden plants became my main interest. In high school, this became my FFA project, which led to more FFA horticulture contests … which then introduced me to possible careers within horticulture. 

… gardening tips.

Start small! Regardless of what you are trying to grow – tomatoes, roses or basil – the number one thing you are trying to grow is your confidence in this new interest. Too often people have grand ideas, and then quickly get overwhelmed or may have some plants that don’t perform, and then just quit because they think they failed. Gardening is, in a sense, an experiment, and each season brings new variables – rainfall, temperatures, insects, diseases. If you approach it knowing that it won’t always be perfect, it is less discouraging. There is not a single gardener who hasn’t lost a plant because of something they did or didn’t do, or because of something out of their control like the weather. All you can do is learn from it, move forward and enjoy the process. 

… her average day.

No two days are alike and that is part of what I love about my job.  Some days in the summer are spent outside all day in the heat, either shooting segments or prepping for them, while other days may be spent inside writing and researching future shows. While the majority of our shows are filmed at the botanic garden at OSU, considering how diverse the climate is in Oklahoma I also enjoy traveling with the show to highlight different aspects of horticulture around the state. In the winter, our show production slows a bit, giving me a chance to plan out the next season and also conduct Master Gardener trainings. 

… her favorite plant.

Oh, this is Sophie’s choice…. Just for pure beauty I have always loved delphiniums. Unfortunately, we can’t grow them here but can grow a smaller but similar plant called larkspur. 

Oklahoma Gardening.

Oklahoma Gardening is a how-to garden show that is in its 48th season. I grew up watching it and never dreamed I would be hosting. Gardening can be challenging, especially in Oklahoma. Our show focuses on demonstrating how to do various gardening tasks, introduces new plants that are proven to do well in Oklahoma, and travels around the state to see beautiful garden and landscapes. We also learn from other Oklahomans about gardening lessons they have learned. We provide the most accurate research-based information on everything from trees to turf grass and water gardens to watermelon.

… Master Gardener training.

Oklahoma Master Gardeners are a vital part of the University Extension’s ability to provide consumers with up-to-date, research-based information. A Master Gardener is someone who undergoes in-depth horticulture training coordinated by local Extension staff with the assistance of state specialists. After their training is completed, the participants engage with Oklahoma gardening enthusiasts in activities and services coordinated through local OSU Extension offices and centers. It is a popular volunteer activity that gives its participants a sense of community spirit, accomplishment and intellectual stimulation through collaboration, service and stewardship. 

… the horizon.

Spring is always an exciting time of year in the Horticulture and Landscape Architecture Department. One of the newest additions to the department is the $6 million Greenhouse Learning Center for students. Each greenhouse is independently climate controlled using an automated micro-grow greenhouse system that continuously monitors conditions like temperature and humidity. This new space allows students to learn real-world management and propagation methods in a state-of-the-art facility.

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