As we turn more and more soil for gardens at the farmhouse, I have been pleasantly surprised to find that we have great soil quality here.  At our old home, we had builder-grade, lackluster, red clay soil that needed attention each spring before it could be planted.  The soil at the farmhouse, while unturned for likely at least fifty years, is rich and dark and teeming with earthworms.  While it’s healthy, it’s very rocky.  Not having been tended in such a long time, or possibly ever, there are endless rocks and pebbles.  And sometimes even a few relics; a piece of old glass, a tincture bottle or a hunk of rusty metal.

photo 1 (1)Many garden veggies do not mind rocky soil in my experience, and in fact some thrive in it.  My tomatoes, peppers and squashes have never seemed to mind.  But vegetables that grow under ground, such as potatoes, carrots and beets require rock- free soil.  As part of my Mother’s Day gift this year, I asked my husband to build me two raised beds for some of these veggies.  We have lined them with a couple of layers of landscape fabric to tame our Bermuda grass, my biggest garden enemy at this point.  They are to be filled with a compost and screened soil mix to give a healthy start to the plants.

The raised beds are small.  We decided to make them 8’x4′ to save on lumber costs, as lumber comes in 8′ sections. Each box required only 6 pieces of lumber.  My husband built them about 12″ deep so the carrots would have plenty of room to grow.  The next obstacle is proofing them against those adorable and pesky woodland creatures.  While cute, they will destroy new growth in a matter of moments.

Our main vegetable garden has a substantial fence around it.  We built a 10′ high fence last year since we were unsure of the deer situation at the new house.  Which apparently has turned out to be overkill as I have yet to see a deer. Just an exorbitant number of rabbits.  The bottom 2′ of the fence is rabbit fencing, and the top 8′ is a wider gauge fence, intended to keep out deer.

I have been asked recently how I handle rabbits on the property.  At this point, fencing has been key.  I’ve found that if rabbits are your issue, a 24-30″ tall wire fence, either chicken wire or something specifically for rabbits is effective and ideal.  It’s easy to work with and install and also an affordable solution.  But there are a couple of hacks that work as well.  I have hung chunks of Irish Spring Original Scent bar soap in pieces of stockings and mate-less socks at 7-10′ intervals around a garden edge.  Cut the bar of soap into 6 pieces; you don’t need much for it to be effective.

The same method can be applied but substitute the soap with human hair. While this admittedly sounds a bit disgusting, it works.  I sometimes save the hair from when I give my husband and son their haircuts.  It can also be saved and used from emptying a hairbrush. I have heard of people even contacting their local barber and asking for the day’s clippings.  To each their own, I’ll personally be sticking with my family’s hair.

photo 2 (1)There are also a few plants that work as rabbit deterrents.  When planted around a garden perimeter, both nasturtium and marigolds will help to keep rabbits from invading a garden.  Both will encourage pollination from bees and, as an added benefit, both are also edible flowers.  Grayson and I grew both this year with our Botanical Interests seed stash we picked up in the Spring; the marigolds are already blooming nicely.  And this week, we have our first hot pepper almost ready for the picking!


Posted By: Jessica J. Crawford Behnkes Garden Blogger

by Marian Parsley, Behnke’s Annual Buyer

Gomphrena 'Pink Zazzle'

Gomphrena ‘Pink Zazzle’

There is a newgomphrena_pink-zazzle_3 fuzzy, funky Gomphrena on the block.  Gomphrena ‘Pink Zazzle’ has it all! This attention grabber has 3” bright pink blooms that range from pink to fuchsia and fade to a soft pink and eventually end up a creamy white as the flower ages. The plant has unique fuzzy foliage and stems and a well-branched mounding, trailing habit. It’s perfect for container plantings, individual pots or in the ground.  Heat and drought tolerant once established, plant them in full sun to part sun and watch them take off. One of the best attributes of ‘Pink Zazzle’ is that it can be planted in your butterfly or hummingbird garden or your cutting garden.  It blooms spring to fall and each jumbo-sized flower lasts for several weeks. It prefers bright light and moist soil. According to my research this plant may be brought indoors for the winter months in a sunny window. I purchased one of these plants this year for my garden and it has bloomed continuously since I brought it home.  Stop by and pick one up and see for yourself, you will be happy you did.

While you are here be sure to check out the other varieties of Gomphrena we offer. Gomphrena ‘Fireworks’ and ‘Strawberry Fields’ are both perfect for landscapes.

Gomphrena 'Strawberry Fields'

Gomphrena ‘Strawberry Fields’



Strawberry Fields– Extraordinary strawberry red, clover-like, straw-textured blooms.  Lanky plants bloom continuously mid-summer to frost. Ideal for fresh or dried bouquets.  Great for containers or landscape plantings.




Gomphrena 'Fireworks'

Gomphrena ‘Fireworks’


‘Fireworks’ Exploding with color, this Gomphrena has hot pink blooms tipped with yellow. A real showstopper!!!  Unique ‘scaffolding’ habit. A must have for the cutting garden; cut flowers are long lasting fresh or dried in bouquets or arrangements. Excellent in mixed beds and containers.  Thrives in the heat and poor soil conditions. Grows 3-4” tall and about 1-2” wide.


Does it really matter what you call your decorating style?  My answer is “maybe,” if only because it can make things easier if you want to tell someone about your home.  I have often been asked how my home is decorated, probably because I’ve spent most of my life working in flower shops that also featured home decorating accessories for sale.

Maybe some of you have had help from an interior decorator, but it’s likely that most of us, including me, acquired things that we like piece by piece over time.  To me, that is how a home should develop.  As you acquire new things and maybe discard others, your home will always be evolving.  What you call your decorating style may also evolve.

I have recently taken particular notice of the decorative items in my home that I obviously really like…baskets and throw pillows are obviously abundant.  This is a clue to what my decorating style may be called.  My favorite throw pillow is rather large and sits in one of two matching wing chairs that are covered in a cream and tan narrow striped fabric.  The back of the pillow is dark green velvet…the front appears to be an oil painting of an Orange Belton English Setter (it of course, is not a real painting).  Dense tan fringe completely edges the pillow.

All of my baskets are functional.  Some hold magazines.  Others hold bread or spare votive candles.  My most treasured and memorable basket is a laundry hamper that my dad purchased for my mother.  We were traveling from eastern Texas to northern Louisiana to visit relatives.  Along the roadside, a family was selling their hand woven baskets.  At the time the hamper was exciting to me, because I was small enough to climb inside it if my brother helped me.  Now I value it for its design, enduring functionality, and sentimentality.

Formal Country by Pat Ross

Formal Country by Pat Ross

I have loved looking at decorating magazines for many years.  I cut out pictures to save or save entire magazines.  My collection of decorating books is fairly extensive and varied.  In the early nineties I bought a book called Formal Country by Pat Ross.  I suppose I was feeling a need to define my decorating style and the title resonated.

Formal country felt like it could be a good fit because of wing chairs and a so-called “French country” yellow secretary desk.  Along the way, touches of clean-lined more contemporary art work began to appeal to me.  Those additions felt right.  In the introduction to her book, Pat Ross says that a “fresher, more fashionable American Country style emerged in the mid-sixties.”  Ms. Ross goes on to mention that “the seventies was a time of flowering for country decorating”. She mentions the influence of Mary Emmerling’s style books, and the contributions of Pierre Deux, Laura Ashley, and Ralph Lauren.

Pat Ross shares with us in Formal Country that she and her team were “fortunate to be able to photograph many of the featured homes during spring and summer months when flower gardens were full and beautiful.”  It was exciting to me to hear how much value she placed on the use of flowers in “country” homes since both country style accessories and of course flowers were things that I worked with for years.

I especially took note of Ross’s mention of Mary Emmerling’s style books on American country.  I have her book called Romantic Country and really enjoy almost all of the photographs.  I struggled a little with the title until she clarified her use of the word “romantic”.  She writes “romantic can mean heirlooms that connect you to your past, tokens of affection from your children or friends, treasured collections, mementos from a wonderful trip—in short, anything that has meaning to you…”

Eclectic Country by Mary Emmerling

Eclectic Country by Mary Emmerling

My style has evolved over the years.  Today, I am very comfortable with the evolution.  I still love the wing chairs that have been with me for more years than you might think.  I am happy with the rustic, almost primitive bench that sits in front of one of the wing chairs and serves as a foot rest (and a place for decorating books and a rusty horseshoe).  Across the room, a large modern line drawing called The French Girl hangs behind our dining table—an antique tailor’s table from the Texas Hill Country.

There was a time when I would have told you my decorating style was formal country.  I just read online that Mary Emmerling has a new book coming out in September called Eclectic Country.  I think my formal country may have evolved to eclectic country. Perhaps Ms. Emmering’s new book will help me define my decorating style. What would you say?

I hope you enjoy the beautiful flowers above shown in a white washed basket with a definite country feel.

Posted By: Evelyn Kinville, Behnke’s Garden Blogger

DC Area Garden Dialogues this June

What are the secrets to great gardens?  Find out on June 27-28 by attending The Cultural Landscape Foundation’s Garden Dialogues in the Washington, DC, Metro Area. The settings are intimate—generally no more than 24-30 people; relaxed—most run 90 minutes, providing ample opportunity to explore the garden and hear a lively, informative Dialogue; and exclusive—each Washington-area Dialogue destination is a private, residential garden.  Design professionals can earn 1.5 PDH from LA CES.  Five Dialogues are offered over the course of the weekend.  Tickets to each Dialogue are $45 or $125 for a special three-pack on June 28:

House at Fletcher's Mill, photo copyright Tom Arban Photography, Inc.

House at Fletcher’s Mill, photo copyright Tom Arban Photography, Inc.

Saturday, June 27, 10:30 am-12:00 pm, House at Fletcher’s Mill, Sperryville, VA, led by Richard Williams of Richard Williams Architects, with Gregg Bleam, FASLA, of Gregg Bleam Landscape Architect.

This modern complex set directly in the working agrarian landscape of the Virginia Piedmont recalls local traditions once strongly held. A new residence and guest house are perched on a picturesque knoll, abutting gently sloping meadows. The compound formed by the two structures is bordered by woods, and a new entry drive. From this vantage point, the minimalist house of concrete, cedar, copper, bluestone, and steel windows features views of the meadow, Thornton River, and three nearby peaks of the Blue Ridge Mountains, including Old Rag. The living spaces open up to broad views of the lower river meadow to the south and the wooded hills beyond the river. A linear pool, nestled into the landscape, occupies one of the choicest locations on the site.

Copyright Maxwell Mackenzie

Piedmont retreat, photo copyright Maxwell Mackenzie

Saturday, June 27, 2:30 pm-4:00 pm, Piedmont Retreat, Bluemont, VA, led by Jay Graham, FASLA, of Graham Landscape Architecture, with Ralph Cunningham, FAIA.

Nestled at the base of the Shenandoah foothills in Virginia, this 178-acre site, once used for agriculture, has been transformed by the current owners into an attractive country retreat. Visitors enter the property along an extended driveway, aligned to perfectly capture views of the nearby foothills before meandering through a wooded area that terminates abruptly in a clearing, offering guests their first glimpse of the main residence. Pathways and terraces encircle the home where a wedge-shaped entry garden beckons, drawing visitors through the front door. Other spaces include the Tapestry and Master’s gardens, which were designed to introduce a diverse palette of plants to the property, direct views, and provide an additional splash of color and personality to the outdoor area. Adjacent to the home and bounded by natural boulders found on site, a turf platform provides flat ground for outdoor games. Beyond the lawn, a newly established meadow completes the design plan as it draws attention outward to more natural aspects of the environment, a pond, and restored woodlands.

Copyright Paul Warchol

Chalon Residence, photo copyright Paul Warchol

Sunday, June 28, 10:30 am-12:00 pm, Chalon Residence, Bethesda, MD, led by Lisa E. Delplace, ASLA, of Oehme, van Sweden & Associates with architect Alan Dynerman, FAIA, of Dynerman Architects PC.

An idyllic gathering place for a large, extended family, this distinctively modern home and garden in Bethesda, Maryland, is the result of a strong, collaborative process between the homeowner, architect, and landscape architect. It’s reflective of the family’s desire to balance function, craftsmanship, and superior aesthetics within the comprehensive site design. A prominent fence constructed of eye-catching steel slats defines the expanse of this two-acre property, creating an enclosed, private enclave for family activities and intimate gatherings. Indoor and outdoor living areas converge as the garden and lawn space form a hub for family functions. A sports court, sledding hill, and vegetable garden support a myriad of activities, while the backyard terrace, pool, and spa provide a modern space for entertaining. Farther from the central house, a mixture of understory plantings enhance a half-acre of preserved woodlands.

Copyright Allen Fuss

Forest Hills Residence, photo copyright Allen Russ

Sunday, June 28, 1:00-2:30 pm, Forest Hills Residence, Washington, DC, led by Jay Graham, FASLA, of Graham Landscape Architecture with architect Christopher Morrison, FAIA.

Adjacent to Rock Creek Park, a large urban park and natural area, the landscape and gardens reflect both the woodland character of the nearby park and the modern architectural design of the home. Throughout the renovation process, the architect and landscape architect worked cooperatively to create a memorable outdoor space. Moving the original garage entrance allowed for an extension of the entry garden, where an extended walkway and ornamental screen along the street front provide enhanced privacy for the residence and create a garden backdrop visible from inside the home. Plantings in the rear of the home occupy the site’s natural slope as the property descends steeply into Creek Valley, a spur of Rock Creek Park, and provide residents with a rare scenic view of dense woodlands and a space for quiet contemplation in the midst of the bustling metro region.

Photo by Gordon Beall

Family Retreat, photo by Gordon Beall

Sunday, June 28, 3:30-5:00 pm, Family Retreat, Potomac, MD, led by Lila Fendrick, ASLA, and Doug Stookey of Lila Fendrick Landscape Architecture and Garden Design.

The landscape architects incorporated an adjoining lot to create this delightful family retreat where the clients spend time with their two sons growing vegetables, swimming, playing in splash pools, soaking in the hot tub, hiding in a below-grade fort, and running through a maze of paths formed by towering shrubs.  The landscape architect designed dramatic lawn steps up to the new pool and pool house complex, designing tiers of waterfalls around a sunken spa, terracing the site with playfully hidden paths, and concealing a lower level parking area and garage. The project uses locally sourced Western Maryland stone on the pool house/guest house and Delaware River Jacks for the pebble paving. Utah-sourced quartzite-sandstone boulders reflect the clients’ appreciation for rugged western American landscapes.

Space is limited and tickets are selling quickly, so register today.

The Self-Prescribed Fruit Snob


strawberries-in-vintage-bulb-crate freshly-picked-mulberries







Last spring I had an Epiphany: as much as I truly love fresh fruit, I tend to eat many more vegetables.  A factor in this is the fact that I’ve gotten comfortable growing pretty much only what we consider vegetables and herbs. (Putting aside the fact that most vegetables truly are fruits anyway.)  I worked on a pick-your-own fruit farm for nearly a decade growing up and became as a result, a certified fruit snob.  Nothing is worse than biting into a mealy store-bought apple or a flavorless, yet sour, peach. Don’t underestimate the deliciousness of a ripe-from-the- tree plum or apricot. I tend to skip over many fruits at the grocery store because I’m weary of the poor quality leading to disappointment.

So last year, I decided to start branching out a bit from my comfort zone of solely vegetables, and vowed to start incorporating fruits into our edible gardening. I planted gooseberries, black currants and “pink lemonade” blueberries last Spring.  This year I acquired hardy kiwis and a small variety of strawberries.  Grayson also decided we should try growing watermelons, so we are giving that a shot too.

mulberry-stained-fingersWe also have several wild mulberries growing in the property that yield a large amount of fruit– if we manage to stay on top of picking them before the birds help themselves.  It makes my heart smile when I catch Grayson sneaking ripe mulberries off the tree. He emerges with purple fingers and lips while trying to maintain his story that he did not eat any of the berries.  I also found several wild blackberries on our back property line that I’ve been monitoring in hopes of beating the birds to them.


The gooseberries and currants remind me of my grandparents’ farm in England.  I have vivid childhood memories of reaching deep into the thorny gooseberry shrub for fruit for jam making in the afternoon. I am positive that my grandmother was using my tiny arms and hands to benefit her from reaching through the branches herself.  And they also had beautiful and bountiful currant bushes.  My mother planted red currants at her home last year and I planted black here.  Both make delicious jellies and my black currant has very pretty fall foliage as well.

We have ambitions of planting a small orchard on the property with a couple trees of each kind.  I would love some sweet and tart cherries, peaches, Honeycrisp apples, and Asian pears in addition to the couple of plums I planted earlier this Spring.  I’ve decided if I am going to be as particular as I am about fresh fruit, I’d really better get moving on growing some here myself.  There’s no comparison in the quality and taste between what’s generally available in the stores versus homegrown.  And I can assure you, grocery shopping from the back garden never gets old.

Posted By: Jessica J. Crawford Behnkes Garden Blogger

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