Learn about Lawn Care at the National Arboretum!


Free, but space is limited and registration is encouraged. Call 202-245-5965 to register.

Great Looking Lawns using Bay-Friendly Practices Saturday, May 2, 2014 10:00 am – 12:00 pm Join University of Maryland experts to learn about soil preparation techniques, selecting the best turf varieties, proper maintenance practices to have a healthy lawn and reduce pests, and learn how to properly calibrate a fertilizer spreader to apply just the right amount with the right product. This pro-active approach, bay-friendly approach emphasizes preventive techniques to reduce weeds pests, and diseases before they become a nuisance. Take home lawn care information to guide you through the process. A guided tour of the new ‘Grass Roots’ Exhibit will follow the classroom will follow the classroom part of the workshop and refreshments and door prizes will be provided!

United States National Arboretum
3501 New York Avenue NE, Washington, D. C. 20002-1958
Tel: 202-245-2726

A Rose Garden


Behnke’s Rose Variety-Sign – Present

While walking around the garden center each morning, I see the outside area filling up with all the new arrivals. Among my very favorites are the roses. Of course right now they are not much to look at but you just know that, before long, their beautiful blooms will bring color to the area–and, walking past, we will smell the sweet fragrances. Some tell me that roses are too much work, but I have to disagree. There is something so wonderful about tending to your rose garden and getting the resulting bouquet each morning.

Okay I will admit it: my husband does the tending of the roses. I get to put them in vases each day. Last year because of the very cold winter, we lost some of our rose bushes, so this spring I will be picking out some new ones for our rose garden. I am hoping for a new red rose and I am pleased that our buyer, Miri, has brought back our big rose photo board this year. Just look for the BIG GREEN board near our rose bushes and on it will be photos of all the different roses we sell, arranged by color. Over the years I have shared this photo of my grandfather and his love of roses.
Albert Behnke -1991

Albert Behnke -1991

This is perhaps my favorite picture of him because, while I have so many memories of him, this is the one that I see when I think of him. Albert Behnke loved his roses and he loved his Rose (my grandmother). Each and every day while the roses at his Burtonsville home and garden were blooming, he would bring her a fresh bunch. There would be so many that if I just happened to be stopping by, I would get my own fresh bouquet to take home.

In 1991, News 7 came out to my grandfather’s home and taped him in his rose garden. I hope those of you that knew Albert Behnke will smile when you watch this short video, and that those of you that never got to meet him will take a few moments and enjoy!

Posted by: Stephanie Fleming, Vice President, Behnke Nurseries

Jessica’s Garden: The Spring Garden

What a gorgeous week it’s been to work outside. While it’s certainly been on the windy side, the temperature has been ideal for comfortably working around the garden. And even the rain has been beneficial. After all, April showers bring May flowers.


Compost Bin

We spent some time this week situating the new chicken coop. We are adapting a large section of our historic barn into a coop for our almost 30 member flock; now sporting ten breeds. While attempting to clear the space around the new coop, we decided it was time to assemble our yard waste compost bin from found materials. We salvaged a few pallets from the side of the road and the junkyard at work, some old tree stakes from my dad and rebar found in our shed. I’m calling this project “free.” While not the prettiest of creations, it’s completely functional for our needs. I wanted something to tidy up the yard waste pile, rather than the sloppy pile that’s continually spreading and gaining ground.

I have also planned where I am going to transplant my berry bushes and where I am going to build trellises for the hardy kiwis I recently acquired, and gooseberries. As of now, my berries are taking up valuable real estate in my deer-fenced vegetable garden. Not to mention, while the chickens are still inhabiting my garden, they are likely to destroy all new growth unless they promptly get relocated.

I was approached about a very unique and exciting opportunity from an old family and school friend. I have been asked to cultivate, grow and arrange wildflower bouquets and centerpieces for her Fall wedding. I am thrilled for the opportunity, while admittedly slightly nervous as well. But with a backup plan in place, I am feeling very confident that I’ll be able to provide an awesome and memorable product.

I’ve planned the 800 square foot cutting garden and purchased lots of varieties of sunflowers, zinnias and wildflower seed mixes from Botanical Interests that I purchased from Behnkes. The first batch of seedlings are already cooking in the greenhouse. I am planning on three separate seed sowings to ensure that something will be blooming come the end of September.  While I’m not convinced the sunflowers will still be flowering, my experience with zinnias is that they are prolific bloomers.  And the wildflower mixes are intended to bloom until first frost. While Late September is cutting it close, I am feeling confident that we will get lucky and the weather will cooperate until at least the first week in October.

I have also decided to plant a variety of herbs for greenery in the bouquets such as rosemary and sage. I am looking forward to having this space cultivated for future years and may even keep it as a space for an extensive herb and cutting garden.  The wedding is to take place at an arboretum and the wildflowers will be natural and whimsical.


Seed Potatoes

I’ve officially run out of room in my new greenhouse but still have a handful of seeds to get started. In addition to seeds, I like to start my seed potatoes in the greenhouse too. I plant them in salvaged annual pots and they always transplant well. I’ve taken to planting the potatoes in large tubs and buckets for ease of harvesting and garden space conservation.  As children, we always planted them straight into the garden. With more garden space at the farmhouse, I will likely do both.


French Fingerling Potatoes

The French Fingerling potatoes were a surprise to cut into. I was not expecting the vibrant fuchsia rings. I still need to get my hands on some blue seed potatoes and then I’ll be set. Unless I see something else that I have to have, which honestly is a distinct and likely possibility. With all the opportunities and potential awaiting this harvest season, I cannot wait to get this soil turned and my hands dirty in the garden.

Posted By: Jessica J. Crawford Behnkes Garden Blogger

10 Shady Perennials that Pass the Test of Time

Hosta Blue Angel, Royal Standard; Fothergilla - Larry Hurley Shade Garden

Hosta Blue Angel, Royal Standard; Fothergilla – Larry Hurley’s Shade Garden

By Larry Hurley, Buyer/Perennials Specialist

We were throwing around ideas in the information nerve center of Behnke Nurseries this morning, about who might write what.  One of my coworkers recently bought a home with a shady yard, and she was looking for advice on what to plant.  I thought it might be time to review what has been successful in my shady garden.  Giving literally “sage advice” to other gardeners is one of the few pluses I can see to getting older, may as well take advantage of it!

We’ve been in the house for 31 years, so some plants have passed the “test of time.”  I’m mostly interested in perennials, which I think are the evolutionary peak of gardening.  But I am a little odd, that said.  Here are ten.

First, my lot is a little less than a quarter acre, and when the home was built in around 1958, many of the trees on the lot were saved. So we have some really big oaks, tulip poplars, and pignut hickories (and aren’t you glad you weren’t stuck with that moniker?  You could be Delilah Pignut-Hickory, of the Atlanta Pignut-Hickories).  That’s an indication that the lot stays on the dry side; no maples—that means no trees with really aggressive surface root systems.  I’m pretty lazy, so I dig the smallest hole possible and cram the plant into it.  I consider that to be a challenge thrown down to the plant, which some of them actually answer.  The back is fenced and I have not yet had a deer problem there; the front has had a little deer pressure, but I’ve managed through careful use of repellent and coupons to convince them to feed at the neighbors’.


Helleborus Red Lady; Hurley Garden, Bethesda

Helleborus – Red Lady

Hellebores, deer resistant; not native.  Really, the perfect plant.  Depending on the type, blooms begin in late November or mid-March, and go on for months.  Evergreen foliage (I like to cut off the old leaves as the new ones come up in April or May, as they usually have some winter burn.)  Care free.  I have hellebores that came from Mr. Behnke’s garden thirty years years ago. They seed gently around the yard over time, so you will get patches of them.  The newer varieties are worth the extra money, with more blooms, reliable color selection, and flowers that face forward and even upward a bit, instead of bending toward the ground as if they are embarrassed to be such great plants.  I am very fond of the variety ‘Pink Frost.’

Epimedium x Sulphureum; Hurley Garden, Bethesda

Epimedium x Sulphureum

Epimedium, or Barrenwort: deer resistant; not native.  Evergreen ground cover for dry soil.  They almost always get winter burn, and around April 1 I cut them to the ground with a hedge trimmer, so that the fleeting flowers are more easily seen.  Like little columbines.  They don’t last more than a few days, but they are nice, and the variety ‘Sulphureum’ is a heavy bloomer, with leaves that turn reddish-purple in the fall.  They are generally small and expensive  in pots, and take a couple of years to get going, but they are very reliable.

Dryopteris labordei Golden Mist; Perennial Farm, MD

Dryopteris labordei Golden Mist

Christmas Ferns: deer resistant, native, and Autumn Ferns; not native.  The best ferns for dryer shade, they tolerate low light and are evergreen, although the Christmas Fern in particular lies down in the winter and isn’t real showy in the colder months. The bronzy young growth on Autumn Ferns can be spectacular.  My Autumn Ferns are in a really poorly lit spot, and they just are just as happy as can be.

Hakonechloa macra Aureola; Meadowbrook Farm; PA

Hakonechloa macra Aureola

Japanese Forest Grass: Hakonechloa: deer resistant; not native.  Best grass around.  I have four types, I think the best is ‘Aureola’, with beautiful golden foliage.  Great next to ponds, on either side of a walkway, in container gardens, cascading over a low wall…

Hosta 'June'; Hosta 'Sunpower'; Hurley Garden, Bethesda

Hosta ‘June'; Hosta ‘Sunpower’

Hostas: not native; deer candy.  Deer love hostas.  The “Queen of the Perennial Shade Garden.”  Deer consider hostas a constitutional right.  I have moved many of mine to the back yard, and I spray the rest with repellent regularly.  I have hostas that are thirty years old, too.  They live in fear of the cloven-hooved devils, but every garden should have some.  The old ‘Royal Standard’ has plain green, one might say boring, leaves, but the fragrant white flowers in late summer are quite nice.  There are another 5,000 or so other varieties to select from as well.  In season at Behnkes, we usually have around a hundred types in stock.  I have maybe thirty varieties at home; other favorites include ‘Sum and Substance’ and ‘Sagae.’  If deer are a problem, the cute-as-a-button minis do fine in containers kept close to the house.

International Flora, Montreal; Astilbe; I Spy Garden


Astilbe: somewhat deer resistant, not native.  These need irrigation in summer.  They bloom for a couple of weeks in late spring/early summer, with feathery plumes.  Red, white, pink or purple.  If they do go dry and wilt, they may die back to the ground till next spring, but they seem to pop back okay.  The “chinensis” varieties are said to take drying out better than the rest.  Color in shade is a problem in summer (that is, there aren’t many blooms around) and the astilbes do a nice job of carrying flowering into June and even early July, if you use an assortment of varieties.

Asarum canadensis; Wild Ginger; Hurley Gdn; Bethesda

Asarum canadensis; Wild Ginger

Wild Ginger, Asarum canadense: native, deer resistant.  These are a little hard to get going in a pot, and what you see for sale will seem a little scrawny for the price.  Given a few years, though, they will spread and make a nice, full, low ground cover.  They bloom for a week or two in April, but since they are pollinated by ants, you have to be really short to appreciate them.  Little liver-colored bells under the leaves.  They are really grown for the round leaves and ability to cover the earth.  Even though not evergreen, they grow densely enough to hold the soil in the winter.

Phlox stolonifera Sherwood Purple; Hurley Garden, Bethesda, Front Bed

Phlox stolonifera Sherwood Purple

Phlox stolonifera, Creeping Phlox: native, deer resistant.  Best of the shade tolerant phloxes, I find that siting is important. It likes some morning sun (as does almost everything, that said) and soil that doesn’t get bone dry.  I irrigate in the summer if things get bad, and the Phlox probably needs that.  I also find that the variety ‘Sherwood Purple’ is the only one that has hung on tenaciously for me.



Polygonatum,  Solomon’s Seal:  not deer resistant; native or non-native.  Really, the variegated Asian one is more ornamental and easier to come by.  I have both, and the native is a pleasant plant, but the variegated makes a pretty dense tall ground cover and has a pink tinge when it first comes up in the spring that is really striking.  The little white flowers are okay, but the foliage is the primary reason to grow this.

So, as a certified old-timer, this is what has worked well for me.  Give them a shot and let me know in thirty years how they have done for you.  I’ll save a rocker for you.




April Flowers

april-flowersIt was so nice to have the sun shinning this last weekend, and although it’s chilly today, it’s just setting us up for another gorgeous weekend. Spring is so much more enjoyable when there is a mix of warm and cool days, because you get this burst of bloom, and then with the cool temperatures, the flowers last longer and the colors seem to be more vivid.

Right now the magnolias are really spectacular. They have always been one of my favorite flowering trees, because they are so full of flowers and so fragrant. We are lucky this year, because so often we seem to have a warm spell that pushes the magnolias to open, and then a frost that burns them. No frost in the foreseeable future, so it’s going to be a fantastic magnolia year. And I bet this next spell of warm weather pushes the cherry trees into bloom.

One of my favorite times is at the end of the cherry tree flowering, when the petals start to fall. If it’s sunny and not too windy, you get a beautiful carpet of pink on the ground beneath the trees. It only seems to last for a day, but its one of the special moments of the year.

My husband and I have been taking walks in the evenings at different parks around our home. Last Saturday we went to Carroll County’s, Piney Run Park and walked the lake trail. Today my friend and I started our morning walks before work. For me, walking is the best form of exercise plus I get to enjoy all the changes of nature while I am at it. I hope that you get a chance to get outdoors this weekend, see the magnolias and cherries, and just enjoy being alive.

Posted by: Stephanie Fleming, Vice President, Behnke Nurseries

 Page 1 of 120  1  2  3  4  5 » ...  Last »