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My Grandfather’s Rose Garden

Albert Behnke

Albert Behnke loved many plants, but roses always held a special place in his heart. He grew up on his father’s nursery growing roses and brought that knowledge to America. My entire life has been about plants and flowers.

I hear my mother talking about growing violets with my grandmother Rose Behnke. The one memory that will always be with me is this photo of my grandfather zipping around his home in Burtonsville, with an armful of roses.

Every morning he would go out and cut a bouquet for my grandmother. They would go into a bucket of water in the laundry room by their garage.

When I say buckets, I mean lots of buckets because you never knew who might stop by that would need a few roses. Then, of course, he always went down to Beltsville with an armful to give out to folks.

Sometimes he would even give them to the men to take home to their wives and girlfriends with a wink and a nod. The few times one of us was in the hospital, all the nurses would get roses during the season, poinsettias around Christmas, and African Violets the rest of the year.

Albert had a large rose garden where he would trial roses as they were being developed by rose breeders. There were very few people that he would let cut the roses. I know I was never given the clippers. I had the honor of holding the roses as he cut them. Not the best job since those thorns hurt like the dickens.

Watch this News 7 spot on Albert Behnke at his home
in Burtonsville, Maryland, in 1991.

I love watching this video and seeing this man I adored so much. Just hearing his voice brings back the days when he would fill my arms with roses. Today, June 3rd, while writing this, it is my 41st anniversary. I still remember him walking me down the aisle asking me the whole time was I sure I really wanted to get married. He was kidding, I think.

Stephanie Fleming; Beyond Behnke’s

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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