Helmut & Linda’s Arboretum
One thing that is sure to bring a smile to any nurseryman’s face is to show someone their garden. For Helmut and Linda Jaehnigen, this is so very true. As many of you know, Helmut worked for Behnke Nurseries as a manager and buyer for all of our outdoor woody plants. Even after he retired, pretty much every few days you would find him wandering around the garden center, double-checking to make sure everything was just so and to give advice.
Helmut’s love for Behnke’s and gardening shines through whenever he talks about this plant or that. Or the good old days. But his love for his wife Linda shines through even brighter.
The last few years have been hard on all of us but even harder for this hard-working man, who, in his spare time, created his little arboretum right in the heart of Columbia. The spring before we closed, Helmut fell down the stairs and broke his neck. But that did not stop him, and before long, he was up and back in his garden. Unfortunately, Helmut had some more setbacks this last year with his health, but his garden lives on with the help and dedication of his wife, Linda.
I finally was able to visit them last week, and there she was picking up fallen limbs, pulling out a weed here and there as she showed me the new garden they were putting in after a neighbor’s tree fell on the tiny little greenhouse they had in the back yard. I don’t know how she does it, but the place looks just as good as it did the last time I came to a garden party they hosted.
It was wonderful getting out and seeing these two special people. Some of you might know just how important Helmut is to me as I have known him since I was about two years old. He likes to say that I am the daughter he never had, and I say he is one of my many fathers. I can hardly believe it had been over a year since I had seen Helmut and Linda, but because of COVID, time just slipped away.
Helmut, a long-time member of the Beltsville Garden Club, wanted me to invite anyone that wants to visit to come and see them. Most of you know where he lives as you have been to his home before. He would love to see you, and just so you know, they both have been vaccinated. Also, just so you know, he is planning his 100th birthday party in 15 years so save the date!
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As my husband and I went looking for a house, after a year of looking, we decided to buy a house in Beltsville, MD. It was down the street from the I. S. Post Office, a quaint Grocery and Butcher’s store, and up a little from a magnificent Garden and Nursery Center. That was the only place I was interested in. Yes, it was in walking distance from the Public school for my two boys, but my love for plants sealed the deal!
After retiring from my 35 years in another field, I received a knock on the door, and it was the vice president, general manager and the manager of the annual plants, asking for support to close the end of the Street, as it had become a hazard to motorists, and customers. Little did I know that, from that knock on the door, I would have a position at The Behnke’s Nursery Co.
I spent 8 1/2 wonderful years employed there, as a cashier then manager in training for the Christmas Shop, taking Ellie Behnke’s place. I then assisted seasonal plants, Customer service, and Houseplants.
These were some of the Best Years of my life, from the staff and customers I got to know, to the rescuing of tender perennial plants from a late frost! I loved it all.
After an accident that left me with a broken spine, broken neck, completely herniated sections of discs, permanently broken pelvis, three major surgeries, and a near death experience that left me”code” blue for 16 minutes (dead, and under severe resuscitation efforts), I was permanently disabled, and could never work again.
Never to go back to work at Behnke’s.
After 20 years of bedrest and rehabilitation, I was able to walk a bit, but my beloved Garden Shop and Nursery Center was closed, one year before I could walk down to it, and wonder at the colors, new plants, and favorite old ones, closed off from the best years of my life. My sadness was palpable, and the loss of my friends was intolerable, and I can’t go back, except in my memories.
Behnke’s, I miss you so much, and I hope all the good times I had, the people whom I came to love will stay with me for the rest of my life. Farewell, my friends, and I hope you stay gardening!