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How The Heck Is Helmut Doing?

 Helmut Jaehnigen
Helmut Jaehnigen

Many of you know of long-time Behnke employee Helmut, especially if you were a Behnke customer 15 years or more ago. Even after he retired, Helmut could be found most days wandering around the nursery, giving advice to all (including us) on what trees and shrubs would work best in our gardens. Pushing a cart–always with some must-have plants on it–he loved to share his passion for gardening.

One of the highlights of the past few years would be when he opened their “Little Arboretum” as he called it for us to come out and enjoy. He and his wife Linda would spend many hours tending these gardens at their home.

Last May I got a phone call from Linda that just made me stop. What many might not know is Helmut, besides being such a big part of Behnke Nurseries was also a big part of my life. I met him when I was just two years old. He came to Behnke’s as a young man and lived in the basement of our home. That would be that old little brick house on the nursery.

When his wife told me that he was in shock trauma with a broken neck from a fall down his basement stairs, I just could not really take it all in. Helmut? The tough old German that always had a smile for everyone? The good news is, however, that he is now back home. After months and months of hospitals and rehabilitation, he came home in August.

I went to visit him the other day and was amazed at his recovery. He showed me how great he can walk and talk and while he does not really remember much of the early days after the fall, he does give thanks for his wife and the strength she had in helping him get better. Of course, most of all he gave thanks that the whole time he was laid up, she kept up with their garden.

I did a short little interview with him since I was not able to get his thoughts before we closed in June. One thing about our Helmut, he loves to talk about the good old days and his customers.  I hope you enjoy this video as much as I enjoyed seeing him pretty much like his old self. And of course, notice he is wearing his Behnke shirt! Gotta love him and I do!

By Stephanie Fleming, Behnke Nurseries, VP

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.

This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. Helmut also had a stand at the Beltsville garden club fundraiser and sold me on a little tree that is one of my favorites. i think he called it a japanese umbrella tree – its a conifer and very slowgrowing but its really beautiful. Without his 15 minute sales pitch i never would have gotten in but im so glad i did and whenever i see it i think “i wonder how Helmut is?” so thanks for the upfate!

  2. Glad you enjoyed his update. I know he is very happy with all the great stories people have been sharing about their gardens. The Japanese Umbrella Tree is one of his favorites and one of mine! I have a beautiful one right outside my door.

  3. Helmut, in his understated way, made an impression that hasn’t left me. And I only met him once. Our small, weeping, year-old Japanese maple went into full mourning after an exceptionally cold winter. We dug it up and brought it to Behnke’s. And Helmut was called to examine. There were few moments of touching it, and few words that followed. “Is not dead. Is only dead from the graft up.” He handed it to someone, said “Cut here,” and returned to us a very sorry blob of roots with 3-4 inches of thin trunk above. “You plant this now.” That maple gets a trim-back every year, because otherwise, in its healthy 40 years since, it would have completely covered our brick patio.

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