Behnkes Beltsville
11300 Baltimore Ave
Beltsville MD, 20705
Behnkes Potomac
9545 River Rd
Potomac MD, 20854
Behnkes Professional
Planting Service
Beltsville: 301-937-1100
Potomac: 301-983-9200
Behnkes Florist at Potomac
9545 River Rd
Potomac MD, 20854

The National Arboretum in April is Awesome

Here’s my bid to entice people to go to the National Arboretum (those 446 acres of awesomeness) this month but honestly, it’s my favorite place all year long.  Covered in snow it’s  gorgeous everywhere but especially around the Bonsai Museum.

Any day now it’ll be the Arboretum’s busy season – with swarms coming to see it’s world-famous azalea collection, and if you go when they’re blooming, try for a Monday or a Friday.  (Sadly, it’s been closed Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays since the sequester, with no sign of full reopening on the horizon.)

Now you see why showing off the glories of the Arboretum is kinda urgent.  We gardeners  may miss it mid-week but not nearly as much as the residents of N.E. Washington, who used it daily as their local park.

Coming soon?  The Arboretum in May is Magnificent, with more alliteration to follow throughout the year.  In the meantime, Happy Easter for many of you!  Happy Spring for every last one of you!

Posted by Susan Harris.

Hummingbird Season Begins!

FLICKR HUMMINGBIRDToday isn’t just Tax Day; it’s the official beginning of Hummingbird Season! Sightings have been reported in NC and parts of VA and you can monitor their journey here: 2014 Hummingbird Migration Map.

So it’s time to get your feeders ready, to greet these amazing birds after their exhausting journey – they need to bulk up!  There aren’t many flowers blooming until next month, so they can really use some human help.

WHEN?  Feeders should be installed and filled NOW, which is why we have ours on sale this week.  We carry both Audubon and Cherry Valley brands, in glass and plastic, and also the window-mounted kind.  Then leave the feeders up for at least three weeks after seeing your last hummingbird.

In the East, our most abundant hummingbird is the ruby-throated type. They’re very territorial, so to attract more than one you may need to use several feeders 30 feet apart, out of sight of each other. Here’s lots more about the Ruby-Throated, including what it sounds like, from Cornell.


  • Mix one part sugar with 4 parts water, boil to dissolve. Or use baker’s sugar, which dissolves in cold water. (Baker’s sugar is sold as Domino Superfine or C&H Baker’s Sugar.)  OR buy the ready-to-go nectar sold at Behnkes.
  • Use an ant/bee guard to keep them away from the feeders. Or a bit of petroleum jelly over the pole the feeder hangs from will help keep those unwanted competitors away. Hornets in particular will aggressively hog the feeder. Ant guards keep sugar ants from trooping up to take nectar, and later trooping into your house for more. Some Vaseline on the cord or chain hanging the feeder works pretty well, too. It’s hard to keep the solution from dripping, though, so you might want to put a planter or, better yet, a water garden in a large ceramic jar right under the feeder. Or hang it out a little way away from the house so sugar ants don’t set up housekeeping too close.
  • A shady site will attract fewer bees and wasps, but also fewer hummers.
  • If you hang them in partial shade the nectar won’t ooze out and attracts ants.
  • Not much action? Add a red ribbon to feeder, though some people say any color will do.


  • Clean really well before using, with Q-tip and vinegar-water.
  • Replace and clean every 2-3 days or more, depending on how hot it is.
  • Because sugar solutions cause mold with time, and mold can cause fatal infections in the birds, cleaning the feeders is important. Use very hot water, and rinse a lot. Or use vinegar or chlorine bleach in water (1/4 cup bleach to 1 gallon water, or 1 part white vinegar to 5 parts water).
  • To remove black mold spots, advice ranges from special cleaning concoctions to putting uncooked rice in the feeder and shaking. I’m not making this up.
  • Have someone keep up your feeder while you’re on vacation.


  • Don’t use food coloring or honey — bad for the birds
  • Don’t use honey — it ferments, and that’s bad for the birds.
  • Don’t use artificial sweetener — it has no nutritional value.
  • Don’t use turbinado sugar.

GREAT VIDEOS I love this video, though I can’t help worrying that the little guy might be slurping up red food coloring, which we know by now is a no-no. But guess what — he’s not drinking this stuff by sucking. I found out that hummers are actually LICKING. Really, really fast. These folks seem to know how to do it — with a red pipe-cleaner wrapped around a solution-filled tube.Once I started watching, I couldn’t stop. This last one shows a hummingbird feeding its babies.

Got Winterburn?


Bayberry with winter burn.

by Larry Hurley

With the unusually cold winter this year, you may have noticed more winter-burn on your broadleaved evergreens and evergreen perennials than you might normally see.

Winter damage appears as drying along the edges of the leaves, the entire leaf, the death of the younger shoots, or even the entire plant.

The damage occurs when the evergreen plant is losing water through its leaves faster than it can replace it from the soil. During the winter, this occurs when the weather is cold and windy, the ground is frozen, and the plant is unable to take up water. When the weather is warmer, the plant takes up water through the roots so that the leaves are better able to sustain water loss. If the soil is dry and the plant can’t take up water during warmer periods, then the damage is more severe.

How do you prevent winter damage? Water broadleaved evergreens in the fall during dry spells, especially those that are newly-planted.  You may need to water once or twice during the winter when the ground is thawed, more regularly if the plants are in containers. Particularly sensitive plants such as camellias should be planted in sheltered locations, out of the wind.

What to do now?
Give the plants a good soaking—water thoroughly.  Let the damaged leaves drop; they will be replaced by fresh leaves soon. For evergreen perennials such as hellebores or epimedium, remove the old damaged leaves and stems, taking care not to cut off the newly emerging leaves and/or flowers.

If entire shoots looks dead, scratch the stem with your fingernail. If it is green beneath the bark, it is still alive and may send out new leaves. If it looks dry beneath the bark, like a toothpick, then the shoot is probably dead. Regardless, wait a few weeks to see where new growth emerges before you prune out dead shoots, or pull out the plant. Unless you are an experienced gardener, it’s best to wait until mid-or the end of April before pronouncing the patient dead.

Feel free to cut off a couple of shoots about 6 inches long with some damaged leaves and bring it into the store. We will be happy to look at it for you and tell you whether we think your damage is caused by cold or some other factor.

Photo thanks to the Missouri Botanical Garden.


Now this ought be fun – the much-touted HGTV HOME Plant Selections are coming to Behnkes, and only to Behnkes in the Maryland suburbs of Washington.  In just its second season, the HGTV program is taking off, and local gardeners were happy to learn that that only independent garden centers will sell these plants.  Can’t get ‘em at the Big Box stores!

I learned all this at the recent Spring Fair at our Beltsville location, where I met the local growers chosen by HGTV to provide garden centers in the region with their plants.  They’re Mike and September Dalton of Walnut Springs Nursery in nearly Howard County, shown center and left in the photo above, with Sarah Hayes, marketing manager for the HGTV Plant Collection.  Turns out the folks at Walnut Springs Nursery are old friends of the Behnke family.

Local growers like Mike and September aren’t just filling orders, though.  It’s their experiences growing prospective plants for the Collections in nearby Howard County that decides which ones will be sold around here.  It’s the growers’ choice because they know best, including which plants are unhappy here in the Humidity Belt.

If you check out the HGTV Plant website you’ll notice on the Know How! page  the wisdom of Maria Zampini, a Penn State-trained expert who grew up in the horticultural biz.  She updates that page weekly with her plant care and design tips.   Inspirations will have have gorgeous  photos to give us ideas and gotta-have-it motivation.


The Annuals Collection here on the website and it looks great!  But which of all those plants have the folks at Walnut Springs Nursery chosen for us?  I’m told (by the Beltsville annuals manager Marian Parsley) that they’ll be delivering “a nice assortment of their best-looking plants at the time of each scheduled delivery to our Beltsville store.”  In the meantime, I’m preparing my pots and waiting for the temperatures to rise and stay risen. (Assuming we actually have a spring and summer this year.   The snow yesterday  – on March 30! – seems to have sapped everyone’s patience.)

Posted by Susan Harris.

For the Love of Food!

By Columnist Chef Cole, Owner Cafe’ Rue, Beltsville, MDchef

Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of happiness or in my case good food. The pursuit of the American dream consumes most young people in my generation. You go to college, graduate, intern somewhere, and start working toward obtaining pieces of the American dream – a home with the white picket fence, the perfect spouse, and 2.5 children. I wish someone would explain how one gives birth to .5 of a child. I was in full pursuit of my happiness with a successful career as a sales account manager for a Fortune 500 IT Company. My seven-year career took me to three states and was the catalyst to me fulfilling the second part of my dream; meeting my beautiful wife.

Rewind to February (2012), and the economic downturn quickly turned my dream upside down. Life has a funny way of changing your trajectory and priorities. When my career ended I quickly found myself faced with the choice of looking for another sales job or embarking into the unknown and following my wife’s advice to pursue my love of food.

Where do I begin with explaining my fascination with food and all things epicurean? My earliest childhood memories revolve around the sweet aroma of my mom baking. Many of my friends consider me the classic foodie, the go-to guy for preparing meals for friends, standing in long lines for the newest food craze, and studying multiple food blogs and recipe books until I am able to recreate dishes from my favorite restaurants.  My career taught me that I was excellent at sales but the question remained – could I turn my hobby into a profitable business?  Little did I know that my endeavor to be a food entrepreneur would test my faith, my commitment to hard work, and my resiliency.


This two-year journey into food has taught me that life is very similar to cooking. Cooking is an “Art” – partly standard technique and a pinch of inspiration or dash of innovation. When grandma would make pancakes from scratch, crispy fried chicken, or better yet, hot-water cornbread there were no measuring spoons for the main ingredients. It is true that sticking to a regimented recipe will mostly produce consistent results. However, similar to scat or improvisational jazz, it’s the remix of musical elements that creates masterpieces.

The same principles apply to cooking. Loosening the chains and substituting coconut oil in a recipe that calls for butter, or using buttermilk in place of heavy cream can create a new level of complexity to Alfredo sauce. What I have learned is that my life and my passion for food are all about self-directed learning and exploration. The best-laid plans and recipes often require tweaking. The next time you use a recipe, simply see the recipe as a map to your ideal destination, but remember there are multiple routes to the same location.

For my first column I am sharing with you the first recipe that I learned as a young child. Years later this recipe continues to be a holiday favorite.

Praline Yummies

1 box Cinnamon Sugar Graham Crackers
2 sticks Unsalted Butter
1 pound of Pecan Pieces
2 cups Brown Sugar

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
2. Line baking sheet with parchment paper
3. Place graham crackers cinnamon side down on baking sheet
4. Melt butter in medium sized saucepan (Do not boil)
5. Stir in brown sugar until fully dissolved
6. Add pecans to mixture, making sure all are fully coated
7. Pour mixture over graham crackers making sure it is fully covered
8. Place in oven for 7-10 min, or until brown sugar begins to boil
9. Let cool for 1 hour
10. Cut and serve

Beltsville Cook Well. Chat again soon!  Chef Cole

Cafe’ Rue Restaurant & Catering
11120 Baltimore Ave.
Beltsville MD, 20705
(301) 937-8800

Praline photo credit.

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