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Counting Pansies

Today my mother, Sonja Behnke Festerling, and I took some time to look through a few of the thousands of photos my grandmother, Rose Behnke, took and we came across this one! We both started laughing since this was a sight that I remember well and so did she.

Right away she said, “Oh look! Mr. Steinley and his sign.”  Of course, the woman walking up to him was my Mom and she was probably talking a mile a minute, as she always does. It was so much fun sharing memories with my mother and hearing her laugh and say, “oh yes, I remember this.” Or, “I remember that!”

Mr. Steinley was counting pansies.  We used to sow our own pansy seeds directly in what we called the pansy beds, as seen above. Before you actually got these little seedlings, a lot of work and time went into preparing the beds and selecting the seeds, but that is a story for another day.  After the pansies would come up, we would then count out 25 pansy seedlings and put them in a wooden quart box for sale. When I say we, I mean Mr. Steinley or one of a few other selected people. This was job #1 to make sure your count was correct. My grandfather was okay if there were a few extra in the box, but watch out if there were fewer than the 25! All part of the “Known For Quality Plants” motto that he was so proud of.

How times have changed. But sometimes I have to admit I would love to have that sign out when I am counting newly arrived products in our warehouse. Like my mother, I love to talk, and once someone says hello to me, I right away start chatting and, of course, lose my place.

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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