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Meet Marian Parsley, Annuals Buyer and Manager

Marian Parsley
Marian Parsley

April 2021 UPDATE On What Marian is doing now.

Marian Parsley has moved on to a new type of business still in the industry. She works for Ambius, which provides beautiful indoor and outdoor landscapes for businesses, malls, etc. They also offer living floral design pieces, ambient scenting and holiday decor, as well as hygiene services. Anything needed to enhance personal lives and enhance the business office is offered at Ambius, including living walls. They also do the poinsettia tree at the Annapolis and Columbia Mall. It has been proven that plants enhance indoor spaces and create an inviting environment for all. Marian works in the warehouse maintaining indoor plant material, cleaning, and preparing the plant material to be delivered and installed at such businesses. She also sets up containers to be used at these businesses with plants. IN short, she provides life-enhancing services.

Marian Parsley has one of those loooong histories with Behnkes that I keep hearing as I’m interviewing the staff.   In her case, that means starting at Behnkes in 1980 at the tender age of 21 after her family moved here from Pennsylvania looking for employment.   Her first job was in the production greenhouse, planting up annuals, and she remembers that the 9 or 10 women who worked there were segregated back then – by which soap operas they liked to listen to!! (We’re talking “As the World Turns” and “Days of Our Lives”)

Fort Washington Lighthouse

Other highlights?  Definitely having her husband Bill Parsley as a co-worker – he worked here for 30 years himself.  And together, they lived for a while in the little brick house at the back of the Behnkes property, where a long string of Behnkes family and employees have lived over the years.  It’s now home to Operations Manager/Webmaster Larry Bristow.

Life after Work

Marian and Bill Parsley have two daughters, a 25-year-old who works with autistic children, and a 21-year-old still in college.  And do they have hobbies?  Oh yeah.  Together, they tour lighthouses, actually competing in lighthouse-touring challenges who knew??~!   They took home a prize  recently for arriving at the Fort Washington Lighthouse first.    Did you know that there are 28 lighthouses in Maryland?  Yeah, me neither.   For lots more about local lighthouses (familiarly called “lights”) go to the Chesapeake Light Society.

And on her own, Marian loves to bake (she used to make birthday cakes on the side) and do crafts, especially cross-stitch.

So, does she garden?  Which in her case would be the proverbial “busman’s holiday”.   No, she says, “I just want to see my husband once in a while.”  Okay, Marian, that’s an excuse even us gardening diehards could support, so you’re forgiven.




What’s Happening in Annuals
Marian attends the trade shows, keeps up with new introductions, and says what’s happening in annuals is better breeding – for lasting longer blooms and more tolerance of heat and drought.  Excellent!  The growers are also growing annuals “more naturally” – meaning at lower temperatures that are more like our actual outdoor growing conditions.  That way the plants have an easier time adapting to our gardens than they did from overheated greenhouses.

Asked about particular brand-name annuals, Marian says Wave and Supertunia petunias are top-sellers and are actually asked for by name.  Both perform well, while Waves, grown from seed, are less expensive than Supertunias, which are grown from cuttings by Proven Winners.  Marian buys exclusively from local growers, by the way.


  • Annuals DO need fertilizers, but the fertilizers can be organic – like those made from fish or seaweed.
  • Marian suggests planting pansies now (until the ground freezes) for two whole seasons – coz they bloom on warm winter days and definitely come back for more blooming next spring.  winter days.

Photo credits:  Supertunias by The Brit. Pansies by  N. Houlihan, taken in Portsmouth, NH. 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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