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And So It Begins

Behnke Demo
Behnke Demo
For more than a year now, I have been hearing that the demolition of Behnke’s was coming soon. But “soon” for government permitting means something different than “soon” for you and me.


A good friend of Behnke’s, Vince McDonald, stopped by the property last week and let me know that DEMO had started. I asked him to send me some pictures, which he did.


I ask myself, how can it still hurt so much to see this happening? For months now, I have hoped and prayed they would start sooner rather than later as the place looked horrible. But driving by made me, and many of you cringe.


At one point last summer I had a nightmare that, like the castle in Sleeping Beauty, the weeds (instead of thorns) had grown up and over our beautiful houseplant house and the rest of the nursery. There was Alfred Millard, former president of Behnke’s with a weed wacker telling me to stand back, and he had it! He was chopping down weeds, but they kept growing back. Thankfully I woke up, but I never got that impression out of my head.


Now the old glasshouse is down, gone! This was the greenhouse over by our little brick house on Wicomico Avenue, the street that bisected the nursery property. Never opened for retail, it was where many of our plants were grown.


From what I understand, the buildings are next, and they could already be down for all I know. Hopefully, Vince will send me more photos. But, I have decided not to watch. My heart aches even writing these words. Seeing the images Vince sent me, and I don’t even have the words to explain how they made me feel. I am not sure why. We all knew this day was coming and it needed to be done.


I think seeing this final chapter is so hard because it needed to be done. Almost as hard as when we actually announced the closing of the garden center. I know it has been an emotional journey for many others, including those of us that lived in that little brick house. So many memories that we will always hold dear. Maybe that is why I keep writing each week.


The property has new plans for its future. A brand new 7/11 will be built on the corner of US 1 and Howard Avenue to replace the 7/11 next door on Garrett. The plans I have seen indicate that it will be nicer and more accessible for folks to get in and out. How much nicer that will be to see with landscaping around it than the eyesore there now.
Behnke Demo
Bulldozer taking down the glass greenhouse

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 18 Comments

  1. I bet it’s tough. So many generations and lives centered around the facility. I realize change is inevitable but, in my experience, it’s not usually for the better.

  2. I too, really do hope the result will be some good for the neighborhood. I may be turning into an old “get off my lawn” lady now, but I definitely don’t like how the character of this area is changing now. I don’t like the way residents seem to keep paying taxes but big boxes keep putting up retail and still, not much fine dining anywhere. But I digress. Stephanie, the real Behnke’s will live forever in the memories of those of us who loved it there.

    1. Thank you for writing and yes I agree our memories will live on forever, I don’t know what the answer is about how things keep changing. I always felt that change is good. Beltsville has changed a lot since I was growing up in that little house on Wicomico. While 7/11 is not fine dinning (they apparently have great coffee though) it will be a much nicer and safer location than where it was on Garrett. That was always such a risky place to get in and out of.

    2. Such a beautiful place for 4 generations of my family to spend time searching for the perfect plants, gifts , classes or the most magical Christmas Shop. Behnke’s Nursery
      lives on in each & every garden & memory.

  3. I had similar feelings when my parents sold their almost 4-acre property to a developer. They had been there 42 years. My Mom cried when I told her that the house, my childhood home, had been torn down. I live 2 blocks away from my childhood home. It was interesting watching them cut down the trees, tear down the sheds and then finally tear down the house. Once the property was regraded and new houses built on it, I don’t recognize the place anymore. I think that is for the best. I still see it in my memories.

    1. That had to be so hard to watch. I cried back in 2007 when we had to take down the old Oak Tree that was on Wicomico as it was slowly dying and branches falling were becoming a danger. I kept a piece of it till my husband burned it in the fireplace not knowing what it was. sigh… That tree was such a big symbol for me. Sleigh riding down the road we knew, never go past the tree. Or listening to the giant wind-chime sing as the wind blew. I know the little brick house where I grew up will come down, but I will never forget it or the people that made Behnke’s, Behnke’s. Thank you for sharing your story too.

  4. There may still be a lot of mourning, and I think that’s okay to feel the sadness and loss at the transition while still moving forward.

    1. I think you are so right. For me, writing is all part of the process and this too will pass. I am excited to look forward even though I write a lot about the past.

  5. I thought the property was going to be townhouses and a lot of green space/park. What happened to those plans? Drove by yesterday and the buildings on Rt 1 are still standing. And there are a lot of weeds!
    I miss the good old days!

    1. Yes the original plan was for townhouses but due to some issues that option was taken off the table. Weed! ugh.. they are awful which is one reason I am glad demo has finally started.

  6. This is really the end of an era. Behnke’s was truly a destination for landscapers and home gardeners alike. My father worked there long ago and we grew up with Behnke’s being our ‘go to’ nursery. I still tend to measure current nurseries against the quality, variety and knowledge I always received at Behnke’s. Thank you.
    A. N. Akers

    1. I seem to recall the name Nordeen. When did your dad work for Behnke’s? We have so many photos of people throughout the decades that worked for us, could be your father might be in some of them 😉

      It really is a good feeling to know that there are so many people like you that appreciate what Behnke’s was to the community.

      1. My father worked for Behnke’s in the early 1940’s and then again possibly in the late 1940’s, after the war, until he started his own landscaping company. He is in the photo you posted 6/21/17 on Beyond Behnke’s – Behnke’s Best. (In front of greenhouses, he is back row, sixth from left). Also, he told us his brother Kermit did the drawing of the man and shovel in Behnke’s logo.

        1. I will have to show the photo to mom and see if she remembers him. She has Alzheimer however seems to recall a lot of way back then. So on the whole logo thing… From what we were told from my mother and grandparents, Mom drew the logo for Behnke’s. We have her drawings somewhere where she did a few different variations of it.. She was about 16 when she did it. Maybe your uncle gave her the idea? She was a very good artist. That photo was taken around when she would have been 16 or so and she is in it also so they would have known each other.

          1. That’s certainly possible. Which one is your Mother in the photo? All the best to you and your Mother. Again this is really the end of an era. And the best thing is our shared love of horticulture.

        2. I seem to remember dad working at Behnkes’s when you were born, which would mean he was still there in the early’50s.

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