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Alex Dencker: A 35 Year Journey from Behnke’s to the Smithsonian

Alex Dencker Smithsonian
Alex Dencker Smithsonian
In this episode of The Beyond Behnke’s Gardening Podcast, I talked with Alex Dencker about how he got started working at Behnke Nurseries and ended up 35 years later working for the Smithsonian Gardens as one of their horticulturists.

 

Alex shares a few stories of his relationship with my grandfather, Albert Behnke, and why working at Behnke’s was such a wonderful experience. From the age of 18 till 25 years later, Alex worked pretty much every position at Behnke’s till he left to work at the Smithsonian.

 

During our conversation, Alex recommended that if you are planning a visit to any of the Smithsonian’s many museums, check out their website first. Each museum has beautiful gardens that are open to everyone to wander around. Working at The National Museum of American History, Alex tries to incorporate what he can to tell the story of America’s history, like the Victory Garden located on the property. Also, using as many native plants is very important to him. Below are a few photos of Alex and some of the things he talks about while working at Albert Behnke’s Private Gardens in Burtonsville, MD.
To listen to my chat with Alex just click on PODCAST on the top of the website. Or Click here!

 

Here are a few sites and links to check out.

 

The Smithsonian Gardens https://gardens.si.edu/

 

Victory Garden at the National Museum of American History https://gardens.si.edu/gardens/victory-garden/

 

Alex’s favorite book, that he recommends that everyone read, is: Bringing Nature Home: How you can Sustain Wildlife with Native Plants https://amzn.to/3bB5pvP

 

Alex told me that this book, Bringing Nature Home fundementally changed the way he look at gardening and more generally, how he looks at sustainability.

 

Two other great reference book recommended by Alex are: Dirr’s Encyclopedia of Trees and Shrubs

 

Manual of Woody Landscape Plants: Their Identification, Ornamental Characteristics, Culture, Propagation and Uses by Michael Dirr

 

And last, Alex likes to go to the Missouri Botanical Garden (MOBOT) website when looking up plant information
https://www.missouribotanicalgarden.org/
Alex Dencker Largo Retail, Easter weekend, 1996
Alex Dencker Largo Retail, Easter weekend, 1996
Albert Behnke's Private Gardens
Albert Behnke's Private Gardens
Albert Behnke's Trial Grounds in Burtonsville, MD
Albert Behnke's Trial Grounds in Burtonsville, MD
Albert Behnke's Private Tulip Gardens
Albert Behnke's Private Tulip Gardens
Albert Behnke 1989 Landscape Project along Rt. 198
Albert Behnke 1989 Landscape Project along Rt. 198
Albert Behnke's Private Garden Hoopsii Blue Spruce
Albert Behnke's Private Garden Hoopsii Blue Spruce
Albert and Rose Behnke's Dog Rusty
Albert and Rose Behnke's Dog Rusty

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 2 Comments

  1. I thoroughly enjoyed your presentation. Brought back good memories of the nursery and of friendships made there. You may remember me Alex. We worked together at the Beltsville and Largo locations back around 1987. As you say, we worked hard but learned a lot and enjoyed seeing all the new and exciting plant species and varieties. So glad to hear life has been good to you all these 35 years or so.

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