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Chrysanthemums…Garden Mums…Mums!


I have a long and intimate history with chrysanthemums. Not only did I grow up at Behnke’s surrounded by them in Fall, but my husband and I also grew them at our own wholesale nursery.  We started in 1979 and ran it for 28 years. I’ll never forget the day my husband told me he wanted to start our own business. We had only been married about 1 month, when he came home from work (he then worked at Walnut Springs Nursery, a well known local wholesale nursery where we met) and made the announcement. Oh, and he wanted to quit his job there! WHAT??? Was he kidding me? Ummm…NO WAY!

I grew up at a nursery, did I really want to have our own nursery? In the end, we decided to go for it and we ordered a few thousand mums. We potted them each morning before leaving for work (he got a new job at the GE Plant in Columbia while we started our company), then pruned and spaced them and, of course, watered and watered them all Summer long. Then came the stress of trying to find places that wanted to buy our beautiful garden mums. I remember driving from garden center to garden center, calling up landscapers and then delivering those mums (we had to pick up and load each of them in our little van once we sold them). Whew!  It was a lot of work but we loved it!

For most growers, the whole process starts early in June and does not end until mid October. In between all of this, the growers are still selling Spring annuals, starting poinsettia crops and, in July, starting their ornamental cabbage and kale crops. Then in August, just when the mums are getting ready to sell, they are also planting pansies for Fall sales. Always a season ahead of the garden centers, growers have the task of figuring out what retail garden center customers will want ahead of time.

Today, while walking around Behnke’s 37 years later, I still love looking at all the colorful mums. Our annuals buyer, Marian Parsley, gets them from local Maryland growers and is always searching for the new and exciting. Marian also helped Behnke’s when we used to grow all our mums, so she knows just what to look for when she places her orders. She has found a great selection, as usual. The next time you’re here and see those big, beautiful garden mums, remember just how much care goes into each and every one of these Fall favorites!

Welcome to Fall!

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.

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