A few years ago, Behnke’s president, Alfred Millard, and the Emmanuel United Methodist Church came up with the idea of a community garden to help with their Food Bank. They do a monthly food distribution at EUMC church in Beltsville. They add the fresh produce to the canned, dried and frozen goods that they hand out.

This year, Eddy Ruano, after a long cold wet Spring, did the planting for the church and has been taking care of it. Now that the crops are starting to produce, the church volunteers will be out to harvest the radishes and zucchinis this week. Eddy told me that they also have a fine crop of mixed varieties of tomatoes and peppers along with onions.

Posted By: Stephanie Fleming

Join us in Welcoming Back To Beltsville

During the past month we have had the difficult task of saying good-bye to our Potomac Garden Center location and moving most of the inventory back to Beltsville. We are pleased to announce that 5 of the wonderful Potomac staff will also be coming back home to Beltsville.

Bill Mann, Constance Cleaveland, Orion Taylor, Terri Poindexter and Christopher Lewis will all be working in Beltsville. Terri and Constance have already started and the others will follow shortly. Right now they are working hard in Potomac to get that property cleaned and packed up! 16 years worth of stuff needed to be sorted.

I hope that if you used to shop at our Potomac Garden Center you can find time to make the short drive (not during rush hour) to Beltsville to say hello and discover everything that our Beltsville Garden Center has to offer! Plus, see some of the familiar faces your knew in Potomac.

Yes, we will all miss Potomac, but we are very excited to welcome home these folks! All but Christopher have worked at our Beltsville location before so I know that our Beltsville family will be excited to see them back! I also would like to say one more time, thank you Potomac for 16 wonderful years!

While no one really likes change, it can be a good thing if you keep a positive attitude. I am very excited about all the great things that will be happening in Beltsville as we focus on doing what we do best… being the best darn Garden Center around!

Posted By: Stephanie Fleming

Life Is A Journey ~ Enjoy Every Moment!


I am always amazed at all the wonderful places we are so blessed to be able to drive to in our area. This past Monday, my husband, some friends of ours and I loaded up and off we went on an overnight adventure. First up, Pottsville, PA?

Uh, what? Where you ask? Just a few hours away, we were able to tour the site of America’s Oldest Brewery. Yuengling Brewery! We got to see and walk through the hand-dug fermentation caves that were used for storage before refrigeration. My favorite part was seeing the beautiful stained glass ceiling where they did the brewing. Once we finished the FREE 1 1/2 hour tour, we got to try some of their different beers, which was a big joke with my friends and my husband since I do not drink. I did try some though.

After a fantastic lunch at the locally famous Maroons (home of the 1925 NFL Championship controversy with the Pottsville Maroons), we were back on the road again to Lancaster, PA.; another place that for some reason I have never been to. I have been through it, past it and by it, but never got to actually stop and shop! I think the reason they have so many shops in the nearby areas such as Bird-in-Hand is so that you can walk off all the delicious meals you get to eat.

While driving around the back roads and looking at the beautiful Amish farms I noticed that the gardens there were spotless. At farm after farm you would see splashes of color all around and the most well-maintained vegetable gardens you will ever find. We ended up spending the night at a nice place that said we would have a farm view. which we did. I had to laugh however, because right across the street was a well-known nursery wholesaler, Greenleaf. I just can’t get away from it! Send us photos of your vacations at #behnkes!

Posted by: Stephanie Fleming

Open Garden Day Chez Moi

Last Saturday it suddenly occurred to me that after weeks of moving plants around and the construction of a privacy screen, my garden was finally looking good. And it would stay that way through July 4, when a slew of old friends would be gathering for our yearly reunion.

Plus, the forecast for the weekend was perfect – high ’80s, low humidity, and no chance of rain.  So I figured why not invite neighbors to see my garden’s progress and maybe get some ideas.  The inviting took about 5 minutes via local Yahoo and Facebook groups, and the next afternoon local gardeners and gardener-wannabees stopped by and made those sounds of approval and delight that gardeners frankly love to hear.

I took note of some of their favorite plants and garden spots, and here are the ones I could hear and remember.  I like their taste.


This little space between the porch and the privacy screen my neighbors built seemed to be everyone’s favorite part of the garden.  The vine is Bignonia (Crossvine) and the groundcovers are Creeping Jenny on the left and a creeping Sedum on the right.

Not long ago I posted photos of it to this blog, asking for suggestions, and got some great ones.  Next I posted photos before and after staining the screen that forest green.



Writing about this spot prompted me to find the “before” photo from the fall of 2011 when I bought the house.  It was filled with scruffy, misshapen azaleas and some weeds.



Another spot people stopped to comment on was in front of this pot of coleus – such a gorgeous color, they exclaimed!  Yes indeed, and that’s just one plant.



More coleus containers people commented on.

Now about the Tibetan prayer flags.  I hung them to give the back yard extra screening while the four Cryptomerias are growing up, and now that they’re tattered and faded, I’ve come to love them.  Turns out, I’m not the only one.



And here’s the entrance to the garden from the rear sidewalk (interior, backyard sidewalks are iconic here in Historic Greenbelt, MD, and unique among planned communities, I’m told).  On the left is the aforementioned privacy screen that I’ll stain green to match the other one as soon as the wood has dried out a bit.  It’s in the same style as the one my neighbor built, only shorter and more open.



I had a wonderful time during the Open Garden just meeting, greeting, and talking gardening, and was delighted to be sent the link to this blog post about my garden from one of camera-wielding visitors, who happens to be a local blogger.  The light was so harsh, I didn’t expect her to get any decent shots but she used her close-up lens to shoot scenes I never even see.  What gardener doesn’t love seeing their garden from someone else’s eyes and camera viewfinder?

Open Gardens are Great

Casual Open Garden events are so easy, so social, and really helpful to new and experienced gardens alike – that’s the pitch I made to the community when I invited them to this one and encouraged them to host their own.  Three people have already declared their intention to do it.  Sure, they’ll wait until their garden looks its best, and the weather forecast favorable but hey, they intend!  I kept refreshments down to the easiest possible offering – lemonade, nuts and grapes.

Posted by Susan Harris.

Hydrangeas: True Blue or Tickled Pink?

blue-hydrangeasThere are very few plants that you, the gardener, can actually choose the color that you want them to be in your garden. Hydrangeas happen to be one of them.

(Ye olde Behnke – E-newsletter horticultural editor can’t think of any others, by the way. If you know of any, email us at behnkes@behnkes.net)

With some simple amendments to your soil, you can choose between making the blooms blue or pink. And while it doesn’t happen overnight, the magical blooms are well worth the wait!

The most important thing that influences the color of hydrangeas is soil pH-that’s the level of soil acidity. That means you may want to start with a soil test.

You can either get a soil test kit from Behnke’s, or you we can give you a kit to mail a soil sample in to the University of Delaware. In general, more acidity makes hydrangeas turn blue, less acidity (or more alkaline soil) promotes pink-that is, unless we’re talking about white hydrangeas, which alas, are limited to white.

5 Colorful Tips for Hydrangeas

1. Consider container gardening for hydrangeas as an easier way to control soil pH. Some of the newer varieties of hydrangeas feature huge flowers on compact plants which are ideal for containers.

2. Feeding hydrangeas well results in healthier plants with more saturated color. Espoma Holly-tone is an excellent choice for blue hydrangeas since it contains sulfur to lower pH. Espoma Plant-tone is ideal for feeding pink hydrangeas since it does not contain the additional sulfur.

3. Water hydrangeas steadily, especially in the hottest part of the summer to keep them from wilting. Mulch to keep roots cool and conserve moisture.

4. Hydrangea color can be affected by lime leaching out of concrete walkways or patios nearby, making blue a real challenge. Keep this in mind when considering where to plant. A word of caution: not all plants like acidic soil. Be careful about what’s growing near your hydrangeas.

5. One more tip from Behnke’s: if your hydrangeas are in an in-between color – say a mauve or taupe or purple that you don’t care for – then lowering the pH will get a nice true blue, or raising the pH will give a clear pink.

We hope this information about hydrangeas serves you well. Yes, changing soil pH takes a little time and effort, but the satisfaction it delivers will add beautiful color and variety to your hydrangeas – and your garden!


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