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Meet Larry Hurley, our Perennials Specialist

Larry Hurley, Perennials Specialist

Larry Hurley, perennials specialist for Behnke Nurseries, has been with Behnke’s since 1984.  He always hoped someone would pay the ransom but no one has ever stepped forward.

He was born in late December of 1950 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin; a great town to be from.  His parents were traditional gardeners of the era, which is to say, they didn’t.  He did, however, grow up with an interest in nature which he pursued through college, earning a BS in Zoology from the University of Wisconsin in 1972.

While trying to figure out what to do next, he worked in the Agronomy Department at the U.W. in a tissue culture lab, working with alfalfa and soybeans.  He learned several things from this:

1) Lab work is incredibly boring, and

2) Plants are more interesting than he had thought.

This led to a life crisis and a Master’s in Horticulture, also from the U.W.  While his wife Carolyn earned her PhD in Genetics, Larry worked for a number of years as the houseplant expert at Felly’s Flowers in Madison, Wisconsin’s largest florist.  This was followed by 6 years in Dallas at Nortex/Northaven Gardens, a wholesale nursery and garden center.  Being a back-office kind of guy, he hid out at the growing end of things as “inventory controller”: scheduling production of tropicals, annuals and perennials; and counting them, and so on.  Dallas reinforced his lifelong distaste for hot weather.

Which brings us to 1984 and the move to Maryland.  Carolyn joined the faculty at Georgetown University, and Larry joined the horties at Behnke’s.  Both are still there.

Larry spent his first twelve years at Behnke’s at the Largo location (now closed), where he oversaw the perennial growing operation, and worked in the Retail Garden center there.  In 1996 he came to Beltsville, where he assumed administrative duties, which now include buying the perennials for the two stores, and helping with marketing.  He spends most of his time in front of a computer in a windowless office, which he recently realized is a lot like working in a lab only without the test tubes.

One of his great pleasures at Behnke’s was working with Albert Behnke, who, although retired, still came to Largo once a week to terrorize the staff and advise on propagation and growing  of  perennials.

Outside of working hours, he enjoys travel, food and photography.  He and Carolyn have visited Australia, New Zealand, Thailand, Brazil, South Korea and much of Europe.  Their home is on a shady lot where a lot of perennials have met their Maker over the years.

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. planted calamint 3 yrs ago from nursery near lewes. each yr comes back bigger and more beautiful. not as vigorous as catamint. still in bloom.

  2. Thanks for the article and glorious pictures accompanying. I’m going to get myself some of this Japanese forest grass or whatever it’s called, soon as I can. I would never have known about it except for you, prize Behnke’s employee!

    Kind regards, Barbara Young in Old Greenbelt

  3. Please add me to any of your blogs. I will miss The Behnke. It’s a real hit on my quality of life, to see this place close. Same with River Hill Nursery. It really hurts.

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