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A Behnke’s Tradition

Happy, Happy 109th Birthday, Rose Behnke! Miss you every day!  Born Feb. 28, 1909

My grandmother, Rose Behnke, loved life and she loved to give gifts everywhere she went. Among her favorite flowers to give were African Violets. Above you can see her in 1962 at Sylvan Lake in South Dakota, holding one of our violets that I am sure she packed carefully to give to to her hosts. One tradition she started was a “Welcome to the White House” gift. Each first lady was gifted with an assortment of beautiful African Violets. Back then we grew our own violets and she was so proud to be able to send them to the White House. We have an album full of personal thank you notes from Bess Truman (see photo) to Nancy Reagan.  Times changed and we have stopped growing the violets but they are still a big part of Behnke Nurseries. You can pick from the many different colors, choose a pot, pick up a Care Instructions handout that Rose wrote many years ago, and you have the perfect gift.

This letter was postmarked Sept. 21, 1949. Yes, Rose Behnke kept the envelopes too!

When you come to our garden center, you will always find African Violets. However, back when we grew them we needed to keep what are called ‘stock plants.’ These were the plants we did not sell but took cuttings from to start new little violets. These beautiful, large violets were always kept on display for people to admire.  Grown in large terracotta pots, each with a label showing the name of the plant, a lot of tender loving care went into them.  My mother, Sonja Behnke Festerling shared her mother’s love of violets and still has a few of the very old varieties in her bathroom that will bloom for her every now and then.

Sonja Behnke Festerling with stock violets

by Stephanie Fleming, Behnke’s Vice President

Stephanie Fleming was raised at Behnke’s Nurseries in Beltsville. Her Mom, Sonja, was one of Albert & Rose Behnke’s four children. She was weeding from the moment she could walk and hiding as soon as she was old enough to run, so many weeds, so little time. Although she quickly learned how to pull out a perennial and get taken off of weed pulling duty.

This Post Has One Comment

  1. I turned green with envy checking out our perfect A. violets………. they don’t like me! Too much light? Too wet? too hungry? Same bad luck with Alpenveilchen….. my (German) mom kept them alive for years and years, I barely can keep them thru one just bought blooming “season” – Though I am told I have a green thumb and “can make a brookstick bloom” – SIgh.
    Thx,
    Chrisitne

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