Growing Up At Behnke’s

Behnkes History

Rose Behnke with her children, Roland, Sonja and William (Albert came years later)

I often write about the making of memories, and this time of the year they seem to come more often. So many things can trigger memories, old photos, a certain song, the smells of something wonderful cooking in the oven, they all bring memories. I love creating new memories but lately I have enjoyed going over old memories with my mother, Sonja Behnke Festerling.

Mom loves talking about growing up in Beltsville in “that old shack that Dad built,” Dad being my grandfather, Albert Behnke. The other day when talking and looking over the many photos we have that my grandmother Rose Behnke took, she started smiling as she recalled all the good times they had ice skating on the ponds that used to be at the nursery. That of course brought up my memories of those ponds, and how much trouble my brother and I would get into when we would take old cardboard boxes and slide down the hill and over the ice.

At that time, we had ducks and swans and the ice had to be broken for them so we were not to go out on that pond.  Amazing to me that the memory for me was the joy of sliding down that hill and not of the punishment we got when our mother found out!

Growing up on the nursery was one big adventure for my mother and also for me! I have this book we have been filling out, To My Daughter, With Love: A Mother’s Memory Book .. it’s all about her memories of her grandparents in Germany, her mother, herself and of course me! Take time during the upcoming season and sit still and write down your very favorite memories. Add a photo or two and one day your children or grandchildren will say to you, “Tell me about this picture.”

Posted by: Stephanie Fleming

Jessica’s Garden – The Plight of an Only Child


Birthday Boy

This past week basically centered around our son Grayson.  It was his third birthday and we celebrated with a party over the weekend for family and all his little buddies.  The difference in Grayson between ages one to two was not nearly so pronounced as the transition between ages two to three.  At his second birthday he was hardly talking and still maintained many of his baby features.  At age three, his mouth is a running motor and a little boy stands before us.


Choo-Choo Cupcakes

This is also the first year that he was aware of his birthday.  It all began two months ago when he started asking me when his birthday party was, after a long string of several months attending many other kid’s parties.  I suppose he figured he had to have a birthday approaching shortly himself.

I decided that with everything else we are managing currently to take it easy on myself this year.  I kept the menu simple and so that I would be able to prepare an item or two each day leading up to the party itself.  Grayson is at the age where our family, his friends and their parents (our friends) join in the celebration.  When planning his parties, they need to be kid-friendly but also enticing to adults.

One of my favorite party foods to prepare is mini quiche.  You can add whatever ingredients you like to a basic quiche recipe.  This weekend we had spinach feta and cheddar bacon mini quiche.  The best part is that one recipe for a basic quiche generally yields approximately fifty mini quiche and stretches your budget quite far.  Not to mention they look adorable and tasty.

Cheddar Bacon Mini Quiche
Makes about 50 small

4 Large Eggs
¾ C Fat Free Half and Half
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
8 Ounces Cheddar Cheese
Salt and Pepper
4-5 Strips of bacon, cooked crispy and crumbled
(4) 9-Inch Refrigerated Pie Pastry

Preheat oven to 350 and grease mini muffin pan.  Beat eggs and half and half; add nutmeg and salt and pepper to taste.  Stir in cheddar cheese and bacon crumbles.  Set aside.  Prepare mini muffin pan with pastry.  Using small biscuit cutters, cut pastry into circles to fit mini muffin mold.  Gently press pastry into each cavity and fill with 1-2 tsp quiche filling.  Bake for about 18 minutes until cooked through.

Spinach Feta Variation: Substitute bacon and cheddar for ½ C crumbled feta cheese and 1 C finely chopped fresh spinach.

Tips: I gave up on homemade pastry dough for this recipe.  It was a lot of effort and truthfully makes no difference; no one can tell that it isn’t homemade pastry.  The refrigerated dough scraps can be re-rolled up to two times without getting tough.  These can also be done weeks in advance for an event.  I like to freeze them on cookie sheets and once frozen transfer to freezer bags.  Right before guests arrive, pop quiche in a 350 degree oven for about 12-15 minutes and you will have crispy pastry and hot quiche to serve.

Another easy and favorite make ahead party recipe is Sweet Crockpot Meatballs; I have never seen leftovers of these.  Generally, they are made by combining meatballs with one jar of chili sauce and one jar of grape jelly in a crockpot for several hours.  I have never actually used grape jelly; I always use a jar of homemade jelly that I have on hand.  This time I made it using a jar of quince jelly.

I make my meatballs in advance and either freeze or refrigerate them until the morning of the party when I set up the crockpot  Usually I combine about three pounds ground beef with 2 large eggs, 1-1 ½ C breadcrumbs, Italian seasoning, salt and pepper, and an onion finely chopped or grated for my meatball mix.  Then I form about 1” meatballs and bake them in a 350 degree oven for about 15 minutes, turning once and not cooking completely through.  If you cook them completely through, you risk tough meatballs and the chili sauce-jelly mixture won’t be able to permeate them in the crockpot.  I’ve also found that 1” meatballs also stretch your ingredients and people still eat the same amount of meatballs than if you make them larger.

For Grayson’s Birthday gift this year, we gave him his newly renovated bedroom.  We’ve been telling him for weeks that his bedroom was too dirty for him to go into and that he needed to stay out.  When we purchased the farmhouse, his bedroom was one of the darkest and dingiest rooms in the house.  It had badly water damaged black floral print wallpaper peeling off the walls, a crumbling closet, worn hardwood floors and a wallpapered ceiling.  After weeks of hard work and dedication, my husband and I are so proud of his room.


Graysons Room Before and After

It’s a fun shade of aqua blue and the room is bright and light.  We sanded and stained his hardwood floors a dark coffee brown.  His toddler bed from our old home was replaced with a cherry red race car bed.  My husband constructed a custom 6’x4’ frame on one wall and I in-filled it with chalkboard paint to make an area for fun and learning in his room.  To the side of the chalkboard, a rescued side-of-the-road school desk I refinished a couple of months ago now sits with a newly refreshed and painted child’s chair.


DIY Crate Shelving Unit

Grayson is also a bookshelf climber, so to avoid this danger in his new bedroom, I painted crates and fixed them together as a giant shelving unit and my husband Chris helped me mount the shelves to the wall, high up, so we can avoid nap time and bed time climbing shenanigans. We went to demo the closet and rebuild it when we saw that under all the crumbling junk was pine paneling.  For about $8 and a lot of elbow grease, I sanded the closet and stained it a white-wash colored stain rather than the several hundred we estimated it would cost to rebuild.  It now brightens a once dark corner of the room.


Impressed by the Race-Car Bed

His reaction on his birthday was priceless.  I waited in his room, camera rolling as Chris opened the door for him to come in, he walked into the room and slowly spun in a circle as he kept repeating ‘wow’ as he took it all in.  That first thirty-second reaction was worth the weeks of sweat and frustration that went into making his room perfect.

Posted By: Jessica J. Crawford Behnkes Garden Blogger

Those Beautiful Rex Begonias

Those Beautiful Rex BegoniasWalking though the greenhouse the other day I was drawn to the many different Rex Begonias and other foliage begonias that we have. On each of the tables were BIG BEAUTIFUL Pots of begonias with little signs in them saying, “Display Only, from Private Collection.” I smiled to myself because I knew just whose private collection these were! Behnke’s president, Alfred Millard, has long been a fan of these amazing plants. And each year we see him bringing them to the nursery for the Winter.

My mother, Sonja Behnke Festerling also loves them along with her all time favorite, African Violets. A few years ago Mom did a series of talks on how to take care of African Violets and I always wanted her to do a talk on her love of her Rex Begonias. Maybe we can get Alfred to do it instead.

The one in the photo is from a collection of houseplants that we carry for sale called “Atlas” and is called Begonia rex ‘Princess of Hanover’ and is the one I think I will try. I have the medium light they need and moderate watering should not be a issue. I am also thinking I might get a few for holiday hostess gifts. While I love giving Poinsettias, Cyclamen, and Christmas Cactii as gifts I think I know of a few friends that might appreciate these begonias.

Posted by: Stephanie Fleming


Pressed Leaves for Kid Crafting

I think that most would agree, as Marylanders we have had a fantastic Summer and Fall. The Summer never got too terribly hot and gradually and gracefully blended into Fall. And here it is now, mid-November and we are still not only enjoying beautiful weather, but also all the lingering fall color.

My husband and I just recently reconnected with a couple of old high school friends, who have since married, by coincidence at the park a few months ago. Since then, we have been regularly getting our young families together. A couple of weeks ago on a Mommy-play-date disguised as a day for the kids, we wandered around their wooded property collecting colorful leaves for pressing. The kids enjoyed the mild weather, open running space and the clean fresh air. We spent some time milling around the yard before going inside to press the leaves in a heavy book.


The Kiddos and their Place Mats

This week we checked on the leaves and they were crisp and dry; ready for the next play date adventure. As a child, I remember making wax paper place mats with my mother from pressed flowers and leaves.

So with wax paper in hand, the kids designed their own place mats from the leaves and markers and afterwards my girlfriend Melanie and I gently ironed them, sandwiching the leaves between two same-sized pieces of wax paper, with an iron on a low setting and a tea towel buffering the wax paper from direct contact with the iron.

This turned into a great activity with the kids whose ages range from two to almost seven. We spread the leaves out in the center of the dining room table and let them sort through and create; a stress-free and easy clean-up project — my favorite kind.

This week was also very exciting for me as I conquered a ‘first’—I participated in my first craft show ever this past weekend at Behnke Nurseries 7th Annual Craft Show.


Craft Booth at Behnkes

Not only did I enjoy every minute, I was so pleased and proud to haul out all my crafting creations and let people sift through and see some of the little things that bring me joy. And I also want to say thank you to all the people who approached me and said such kind words to me regarding reading and following my articles. It means a lot to know that people get a spark of enjoyment from reading about my day-to-day mishaps and adventures.

Pallet Art Projects

Pallet Art Projects

After the craft fair this Saturday, I spent a portion of Sunday catching up on some of my promised pallet wall hangings intended for holiday gifts. Until recently, I highly underestimated the potential crafting possibilities presented by an old pallet. Who knew that a pallet was so versatile? One of my future pallet to-do projects is a bar/prep station constructed out a couple of pallets and some home improvement store hardware.

Land of the Free Pallet Art

Land of the Free Pallet Art

For now I’ve mostly been making wall hangings from them by breaking out a crowbar and hammer and a healthy dose of girl power. And a few bandaids. They require deconstruction and reconstruction before I paint, stencil and add hardware to them. I’ve been mostly making patriotic themed ones as they are what I most frequently get requests for. But I’ve been making others and attaching fun and funky ceramic and wood knobs. I should know better than to underestimate the potential offered by something old and rusty; it’s what usually turns out the most interesting and full of character.

Check out my Etsy shop ToadstoolsandThyme to see some of my most recent pallet creations.

Posted By: Jessica J. Crawford Behnkes Garden Blogger


Linday Congedo & Chip McAuliffe of CarGo Apron

A few months ago I went to a trade show at Harbor Place. While I was walking around looking at all the really neat new products we were thinking of selling at the nursery, I was surprised when a friend of mine, Linda Congedo, ran up to me to say hi! WOW! Never expected to see her there!

She was so excited to tell me about this new product that she and her partner, Chip McAuliffe, (they live nearby in Howard County) were promoting at the trade show! It was the coolest thing I have seen in awhile. I brought our Garden Shop buyer, Mike Bader, over to see what he thought, and he liked them so much he signed right up!

Chip invented the CarGo Apron when he was frustrated by not having a way to easily protect the entire cargo area of his new SUV when hauling yard waste to the dump. He put his inventor’s cap on went about designing a solution that fully contained all the parts and pieces to quickly install a waterproof and tear proof cargo area liner into any hatchback, SUV or minivan, with no permanent attachment components left in the vehicle. He patented his invention, and the CarGo Apron is the result. Chip and Linda are working hard to get their small business off the ground, and are very excited to have Behnke’s being part of spreading the word about this great new product.

There is a widespread problem of hauling messy loads while keeping the interior of vehicles clean. I’m sure you’ve seen what we have; people ineffectively using blankets or tarps or sheets of plastic to try to achieve that result. Dirt, moisture, and debris always seem to find their way around these ineffective barriers. Don’t tell my husband, but he is getting one for Christmas! ~ Stephanie Fleming

CarGo Aprons
Removable cargo liner for your car
Available in small, medium, large & X-large

CarGo-ApronEASY TO USE – Cargo liner goes in and out in less than a minute.
FULLY INTEGRATED SYSTEM – No permanent attachments to your vehicle. Everything you need for installation is part of CarGo Apron. No parts are left in the vehicle.
BOX DESIGN – Protects the back of forward seats and the interior sidewalls.
REAR FLAP – Protects the interior side of tailgate or hatch door. Also protects the bumper when loading and unloading cargo and debris.
PROTECTS the resale value of your vehicle.
WATERPROOF and TEAR-PROOF – Constructed of freight-grade woven polyethylene material to withstand your toughest loads.
COMPACT – Rolls up for convenient under seat storage.

Check out this short video on the CarGo Apron


Posted by: Stephanie Fleming

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