Memorial Weekend at Behnke Nurseries


Memorial Day is when we remember and honor those who are serving and have served in the United States armed forces. I was asked to re-share what I wrote last year about the men in our family who served.

When I was a little girl, my grandmother, Rose Behnke, had a very large map on the dining room door of Vietnam. She would mark where Uncle Roland had been while flying C130’s. He would also send us eight-track tapes (on large reels) with wonderful recorded messages home. In his early years he helped with the Behnke business. He entered the U.S. Air Force through the Aviation Cadet Program in 1953 and graduated with the class 55-Q.

His first assignment was with the Strategic Air Command as a B-47 co-pilot in Lincoln, NE. He flew many planes during the course of his years in the Air Force including the C-119, T-39, T-6, C-130, B-25, and the C-47. He was awarded the Silver Star, Distinguished Flying Cross and Air Medals for flights while in Vietnam. He continued his Air Force career until he retired in 1976. After he retired he returned to Behnke Nurseries for many years, serving as President until he retired once again and moved to St. Mary’s with his wife Ele.

Uncle Will joined the United Stated Marines when he was 18. He went to boot camp in South Carolina and then was stationed at Camp Pendleton in California. From there he was deployed to South Korea and served until 1957. He  returned to California where he still lives with his bride of 50 years, 5 children, and many many grandchildren. The photo above was taken in December of 1953 or 1954 in Korea, Inchon Harbor.

Uncle Albert joined the United States Air Force and served from 1971 to 1975. He was stationed in England. His brother, Roland had the honor of swearing him into the Air Force.

Then there is my cousin Mark Behnke (Roland’s son) who joined the United States Air Force in  1989. Mark flew the AC130 during his time in the military, and then also returned to Behnke’s where he set up our I.T. department, and was later President of the company. He is an aerospace engineer, and lives in Maryland with his wife and 3 children.

My cousin Carl Behnke’s son, Benjamin Albert Behnke, (Roland’s grandson) joined the United States Army 2 years ago. This past year he has been stationed in Iraq.

We are all so very proud of Ben and all the other men and women who serve our country.

Posted by: Stephanie Fleming, Vice President, Behnke Nurseries


Galvanized tub with peppermint

True to Maryland’s form, we have switched from Winter straight into Summer. Among my favorite things about this time of year are the heat thunderstorms. After a scorching day, the sky breaks and it pours and pours. As a child, I remember lying in bed with the windows open, listening to the thunder roll and embracing the fresh cool air. We had substantial storms in Carroll County this past Monday evening. I made the mistake of pulling all my seedlings out of the greenhouse to get doused before the storm. They received a harsh lesson in hardening up for the real world in the garden.


Black Currants starting to fruit

The patches of lawn I killed a week or so ago are finally starting to show their defeat. I asked my husband to till the smallest area for my potatoes. While this was intended for my berry bushes, I’m afraid that now that they are starting to bear fruit, transplanting them will cause too much stress on the plants. So this solved another problem I encountered in last year’s garden–planting tomatoes and potatoes too closely together. The potato beetles were terrible for me. As soon as they’d completely ravaged my poor potatoes, they tried to destroy my tomatoes. Now, they will be planted across the backyard from one another and I’m hoping to contain this issue.

It felt so good to get my hands in the soil this morning and work on planting my potato patch. There is nothing quite like dirt therapy. It’s a time for me to have some much deserved and craved “alone time.” Sometimes it’s just nice to be alone with your thoughts.  And then when I do get company in the garden, usually from my favorite three year old, it’s always welcome and enjoyed. There’s nothing like sweat on your brow and dirt under your fingernails to make you feel accomplished.

Salvaged pots for herbs-1

Salvaged pots for herbs

The last few seasons I have been planting a significant portion of my herbs in my vegetable garden since we have space. But I also love how fresh herbs look in pots on our new front porch. And the convenience is nice too; it’s a much shorter trip to the front porch than the back garden for a sprig of thyme or fresh chives. And mint is something I would never dare plant straight in the soil in fear of losing complete control of it.


Sage in bloom

In addition to the pots I painted and planted with herbs last week, I also started collecting some galvanized tubs. I drilled holes in the bottom for drainage and lined the tub with burlap (for two reasons: you can never have too much burlap and also, I thought it might prolong the life of the container if the soil wasn’t in absolute direct contact with it.) My mint looks perfect in it, and it’s handy for when mojitos come into Summer fashion.


Chive Blossoms

I have found that my perennial herbs that have survived the winter tend to flower very quickly.  I try to stay on top of pinching off the flower blossoms to keep the plant producing all Summer and into Fall. A lot of times, these blossoms can be used in cooking. I snagged all the blossoms from my mother’s chives, disguising my harvest as garden help.  I really wanted them to make a chive blossom, lemon zest and peppercorn sea salt. They are supposed to have a light onion flavor that I thought might be nice for seasoning veggies for the grill this Summer.

We also snagged my husband’s smoker from my parent’s house. It’s been there since I was hiding it for Christmas. I think my father was hoping we’d forgotten about it.  I am looking forward to a season of family and friends and backyard barbecues at the farmhouse. I’m aware summer can get hot, but it’s the time of year when I thrive. I am more than elated that the weather has turned for the warmer.

Posted By: Jessica J. Crawford Behnkes Garden Blogger


So the wedding date is set…there’s lots to do, including choosing a florist. How will you decide which florist is best for you? Starting early is a good idea…6 months to a year ahead of the wedding. Some florists in our metropolitan area may already be booked for your chosen date as early as a year out!

Begin your search by getting referrals from friends who were pleased with their wedding flowers or from event planners, photographers, and venue managers. Perhaps you have worked with a florist for other occasions and were happy with the flowers and service. Even if you have been happy with the florist for other occasions, but are not familiar with their wedding flowers, ask the same questions that you would ask florists that you are not familiar with.

As some may know, I have been a florist for many years and have designed wedding flowers for many, many brides. My recommendation is to meet with at least 3 different florists (this can include the florist that has done other floral work for you).

There are preliminary questions to ask the florist even before you start to talk in detail about flowers. Is the florist available on the date of your wedding? If the wedding is small, will she (or he) do the flowers? Some have minimums. If it is large, are you confident that they can handle it? Does the florist deliver to your venue? Can they handle set-up needs?

If the 3 florists that you contact are available on your chosen date and you are comfortable with their answers, then you may choose to schedule a time to talk specifically about flowers and wedding designs. Bring pictures and a sample of the bridesmaids’ dress color to the consultation. This color sets the theme for the wedding décor. If the shops are new to you, look at flowers currently in stock. Are there lots of interesting varieties…do they look fresh and well cared for?

Be sure you understand when you will receive a written proposal capturing the descriptions of designs that were discussed. This proposal should include prices and specifics about payment dates, such as deposits and a due date for the entire payment.

Wedding-PhotosThe most important thing in choosing a wedding florist is the rapport that you have with the florist. What is your confidence level that she (or he) is understanding what you’re looking for? Will the florist be able to capture your “vision” from information that you provide? Are you comfortable with the answers to your questions? Is the florist easily available to answer questions that arise after the consultation? Are you confident that the florist will deliver wedding designs that meet your expectations?

I hope that you find some of these tips helpful as you begin to visit various florists. I feel certain that you will find the right florist to design the wedding flowers you have dreamed of for your special day!

Posted By: Evelyn Kinville, Behnke’s Garden Blogger



Plant Ahead for Summer Color

We are approaching a transitional period in the perennial garden. Late spring color is bursting forth, with terrific plants such as Siberian Iris and Peonies. It seems now that color abounds in gardens and in the nursery, but in early to late June there is a bit of a lull until the late season perennials begin to come into color.

Perennials are either spring blooming or summer/fall blooming, but seldom both. Okay, I know there are reblooming German Iris, and some cool-evening-loving plants like Dianthus might come back into bloom, but as a rule of thumb, you have spring perennials with short blooming periods, and summer bloomers with long blooming cycles.

So my advice is: plant ahead. While it’s still relatively mild, plant those summer bloomers while they are still green. You may as well enjoy every flower that your plant is going to produce, and it will probably produce more if it’s been in the ground for a month or two than it will sitting in a pot in July.

Here are five groups of summer plants that you should be looking for over the next few weeks.

Coreopsis - Photo from Terra Nova Perennials

Coreopsis – Photo from Terra Nova Perennials

Coreopsis: with the unfortunate common name of Tickseed, small, daisy-like blooms, traditionally in yellow and gold, although these days there are now reds and pinks available as well. New selections are being bred for compactness, disease resistance, improved winter hardiness, and to be “self-cleaning” so that they don’t have to be sheared back to continue blooming throughout the summer.


Agastache – Photo By Larry Hurley

Agastache: Anise Hyssop, blooms all summer and is an absolute magnate for butterflies and other pollinators. Well-drained soil is necessary for their long term survival so amend soil very well, or plant on a bit of a slope or in a raised bed. Producing spikes of flowers in various shades of blue (the hardiest); but also available in red, peach, pink, yellow. The Summer Series is one of the more exciting new varieties that we are offering this year.


Russian Sage – Photo By Larry Hurley

Perovskia: Russian Sage, with spikes of small blue flowers on gray-leaved plants, Russian Sage is the perfect plant for your sunny, dry spot. It really does flower all summer, right up to frost. It may get floppy if it gets too much water and fertilizer, so it’s a “tough love” plant. Once established, hold back on the water. New varieties are more compact with stronger stems, and are worth the extra couple of bucks.


Echinacea – Photo from Terra Nova Perennials

Echinacea: the Purple Coneflowers. Traditionally daisy flowers in pink (not even close to purple, as far as I am concerned) and white, there have been literally hundreds of new varieties released in just about all colors except blue, and many with double flowers. The latter look like badminton birdies on a stick, only prettier. The key to coneflowers is, again, good drainage. A slope or raised bed helps tremendously. If you really want to guarantee planting success with this flower follow these instructions: plant them early, and remove the flowers the first year. You are much more likely to have a sturdier, stronger echinacea because the plants will focus on making a stronger crown and root system rather than having to expend all of their focus creating blooms. At least as much as plants are capable of focusing on anything.


Monarda – Photo from Proven Winners

Monarda: Beebalm. These are great plants for attracting butterflies and hummingbirds, with bold flowers in pink, red, and purple. Some of the newer varieties offer fairly good mildew resistance, and spread much more slowly than some of the old fashioned types. There should be a cultivar that’s right for you.

There are plenty of others…tall garden phlox, Joe Pye Weed (running late this year due to the cold winter weather), butterfly weed. Our growers are bringing us fresh plants nearly every day. Drop by, and Plant Ahead.

By Larry Hurley, Perennials Specialist

A Purposeful Garden

Mourning doveThe last Mourning Dove fledged the other day, eliciting mixed emotions in me. My “growing season” begins before spring blooms, it starts when I see, and hear, birds in the yard. I start most days watching them preparing their nests and eventually, tending to their clutch. With binoculars and camera in hand, I check in on “my” nests (realizing all along they aren’t “mine”) and am thankful that the garden just happens to provide a good nesting location for certain species.

Dry StreamI noticed the last Mourning Dove nest was no longer active and went outside to start the other morning activity – wandering through the garden to see what’s growing and, I’ll admit, glancing up towards the likely nesting locations in hopes of spotting another active nest.

While watering the flowers just beginning to emerge along the backyard’s dry stream bed, I noticed a young dove hanging out near the rocks. Calmly, the dove sat towards the back, huddling under the sweeping limbs of the Scotch Broom.

Looking around the backyard’s dry stream bed, I realized it was only a matter of time before the butterfly bush would live up to its name and soon, it would be covered with purple blooms and the wings of butterflies and moths.

The dry stream bed area, or “The Green Bed,” has taught me a lot about gardening: Appreciating the different colors, textures and growth of predominantly green plantings . . . . . and how to incorporate my passion for color as well.

butterflyAs the plantings ramble, and some flower, the Green Bed’s beauty deepens as does my appreciation for the aesthetics and purpose. It’s beautiful, easy to maintain and nature’s creatures visit it.

When the monarda’s in bloom, hummingbirds congregate long enough to enjoy the colorful blooms – I’ve yet to capture it well in a photograph but the image is ingrained in my memory. For now, that’s enough.

bee balmAs I look around, it dawns on me how drastically different my approach to gardening has evolved. What started as a yard for raising twins slowly became a garden filled with colorful blooms planted solely for my preference. Decorative plantings were guided either by aesthetics and/or emotions commemorating milestones.

Slowly, perennials replaced annuals, height, color, textures, bloom times and planting conditions came into play and overall, I enjoyed the vision of a long, interesting and colorful blooming season. I admit that very little thought was given to how my little piece of land fit into the bigger scheme of things. Helping the ecosystem and good planting practices seemed like things beyond my reach.

perennialsVisions of Martha Stewart danced in my head as I pictured myself, basket and clipping shears in hand, gathering the day’s bounty of blooms for vases scattered around my home.

decorative jarDon’t get me wrong – I still plant and will continue to plant with aesthetics in mind. Should there be a lot of blooms to spare, I’ll cut a few stems to enjoy indoors and I’ve been known to post a “Bouquet of the Day” from time to time but last summer, I started to collect fewer bouquets and this summer, I think the same will be true.

Function and aesthetics can be the foundation for any garden, no matter where and regardless of size. If I restrain myself from cutting the blooms and am thoughtful about evolving the landscape, nature’s creatures benefit and become the most beautiful part of the landscape.

Planting with purpose takes time, research, trial and error and professional input (a huge thank you to Serena Masters Fossi who continues to patiently guide me with thoughtful planning and planting). The Native Garden we began this summer is a small beginning and no, it isn’t lush or dense with all the plantings and life I envision – but it’s planted with thought towards the bigger picture. I hope Monarchs are encouraged by the Butterfly Weed and Goldfinches will be attracted to the Willow Leaf Sunflowers and Black-eyed Susan.

planted potI’m not pulling out the Violets wandering throughout the backyard because I’m hopeful Regal Fritillaries will find them and I love hearing the Red-Bellied Woodpeckers enjoying the many oaks in our neighborhood.

ladybugContinuing my ritual of wandering through the garden each morning . . . the first ladybug on the Viburnum was just as beautiful as any flower.

In the perennial bed, the orange Geum blooms were plentiful but I resisted picking them – who knows what winged creature might enjoy the brilliant color? The Smokebush is lush, Coral Bells are shooting up stems of flowers and the St. John’s Wort bush will soon be covered in yellow blooms.

Instead of looking at this lovely sight as “bouquet potential” I wondered what birds and butterflies might be attracted – I look forward to that landscape because THAT is a complete scene of nature. The Centranthus ruber, Lavender Towers, Dicentra, Bluebells, Fothergilla, Salvia and more are also putting on a show. I think I’ll just sit back and enjoy it.

perennial-gardenAs I walked past the climbing hydrangea, I noticed little sparrows darting in and out of the lower leaves. I passed the vine, careful not to disturb whatever those sparrows were doing and noticed a full, tiny nest with eggs no bigger than marbles.

Birds nestCase closed. Many should enjoy gardens – and when nature shares in your enthusiasm, everyone benefits.

Posted By: Emily Stashower Behnkes Guest Blogger

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