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Garden Club Report, Part 1

The Behnkes Garden Party last Saturday was great fun and an opportunity to find out what’s new and noteworthy from representatives of area garden clubs and societies.  As the designated Garden Party reporter I did just that, and here’s my first report.


First, the Potomac Rose Society is now meeting at the Franciscan Monastery, which is a fabulous idea!  That enables them to reach an audience of rose-lovers from the eastern part of DC, plus Prince George’s County, too.  And of course, the Monastery is famous for its rose collection.  The club meet 8 to 9 times a year and has over 1,200 members.

These gentlemen stressed to me that the club isn’t just for experts, and that they welcome the new rose-growers who’ve been attracted to roses by the introduction of Knockouts and other disease-resistant types.  The Rose Society is happy to help people who’d rather not spray to lots more disease-resistant types, though.  For rose newbies the society has “consulting rosarians” eager to help and terrific resources on their website.


The Francis Scott Key Iris Society was a new Garden Party participant this year, so welcome!  The society currently has 87 members and holds two popular rhizome sales each year, in addition to its tours, shows, and other events.

I learned that there are lots more types of Irises than I realized, including some that are native (below left) and some that prefer shade (below right).  I also learned that I should be dividing my Siberian Irises every 3-5 years because (like Hostas) their centers become unproductive over time and need to be removed.



The Potomac Valley Chapter of the North American Rock Garden Society has about 100 members and their meetings take place around the DC area – at Brookside Gardens, the National Arboretumk, and other venues.   It was explained to me that rock gardeners are generalists, using any plants that enjoy well drained, rocky soil.  For that, it’s simple enough to create a berm with porous soil, and apartment dwellers can create rock gardens in containers like the ones on display here.  Also, not all rock garden plants are sun-lovers.  Shade-loving plants can simply be tucked behind a rock.  Who knew?!


The Hyattsville Horticultural Society was founded in 1916 by some professors at the University of Maryland and now has a core of 25-35 super-active members who meet in either the Municipal Building or members’ homes (and gardens).  In addition to their website, the club has an active email group for getting and giving advice, getting and giving away extra plants, et cetera.  They have two plant swaps each year, and a seed sale (where used books and tools are also sold).  There’s lots of interest among members in planting for native pollinators.


IMG_3869The Baltimore African Violet and Gesneriad Club is the only violet club in Maryland, and draws members from across the state and Pennsylvania, too.  Now 61 years old, the club holds a yearly show and sale and a summer picnic at a member’s home, plus a fall plant sale.

I learned that inside our homes is the perfect environment for African violets, making them possibly the most popular houseplant in the U.S. (though orchids are nipping at their heels).  In fact, even during the summer months, African violets are much happier indoors than outdoors, where they’d be vulnerable to a variety of insects.

Apparently there’s cross-membership between the Baltimore club and the National Capital Area Chapter of the Gesneriad Society. 


Posted by Susan Harris.


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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