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Environmental Gardening at Behnke’s


Those of you who have shopped here for many years may remember that we used to have our shade and flowering tree display area on the south side of our main driveway (that is, between Route 1 and the parking lot, by the Bonsai Classroom.)  To make things easier to manage and easier to shop, we consolidated the trees with the shrubs on the other side of the nursery, which left us with a half an acre of unused space. We’re in the process of converting this space to gardens and wildlife habitat.

Our president, Alfred Millard, and our groundskeeper, Steven Ricks, have really transformed the area this year.  First, over 4,000 square feet of frontage along US Route One have been planted with sunflowers. In addition to providing a spectacular display, set off by the ornamental border between the sunflowers and Route One, these sunflowers will be harvested for seed and given to customers to feed their birds and squirrels at home.

Our resident beekeeper, Christopher Lewis, has installed a honeybee hive, and the bees are continually gathering nectar and pollen from around the nursery. A favorite haunt of the bees is the new Pollinator Garden, a mixed garden of shrubs, perennials and annuals, designed with pollinators in mind.  This garden has filled in very quickly, and boasts great specimens of Swamp Milkweed, Joe Pye Weed, Anise Hyssop, Mountain Mint, Sweet Pepperbush, and other pollinator favorites.

pollinator-garden insect-hotel

Just so the native bees don’t feel left out, Alfred has also built an “Insect Hotel” with nesting places for solitary bees, plus earwigs, butterflies, and so on.  For the birds, we’ve added a bluebird house, and Walpole Woodworkers has graciously supplied a Purple Martin House.  So far, it’s more sparrows than martins, but we are hopeful that the martins will take over next year.

The really big project was the installation of examples of what homeowners and businesses can do to reduce the polluting effect of rapid stormwater runoff.  The project has been led by the Low Impact Development Center and funded through the Prince George’s County Stormwater Stewardship Grant Program in partnership with the Chesapeake Bay Trust. The project was initiated to demonstrate the practices being promoted through the Prince George’s County Department of the Environment (DoE) Rain Check Rebate Program.

The goal of stormwater management is to reduce the volume and speed of runoff to reduce the load on the storm sewer system.  This is done by reducing water impermeable surfaces (e.g., concrete) and creating ways to catch runoff to either use the water or to allow it to filter into the groundwater supply.

Homeowners and Businesses can get generous rebates for properly installed projects. More info at https://www.princegeorgescountymd.gov/2236/Portal

Permeable Pavers

Projects include: removing impermeable surfaces (at Behnke’s, this was a blacktop walkway); installing permeable paving systems (at Behnke’s, where the blacktop previously lay); planting shade trees; installing rain barrels, cisterns, and green roofs; and planting a properly designed rain garden.  Installation of samples of all seven of these are nearly complete at Behnke’s, with five of the seven on the “South Side” and the cistern and green roof near the perennial sales area.

Rain Garden at Behnke’s

The rain garden was built by Stormwater Maintenance and Consulting, with the plants and planting supplied by Behnke’s. The garden will capture a portion of the water from our parking lot, and it will drain and filter through the garden to the subsoil over a 24 hour period.  It will fill in nicely over the next year, and will be quite an attractive garden in its own right.  All of the plants in the rain garden are native plants.

We are very excited to be a part of this project.  The County’s DoE staff has been very generous with their time in the past, and always has information tables at our events like our Garden Party and Spring Open House.

We are pleased to provide a venue for hands-on examples.  It also provides us a platform for future presentations and demonstrations on the various pieces of the South Side.


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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