skip to Main Content

The Happy Wanderer ~ Memories With Rose Behnke

Rose Behnke The Happy Wanderer
Rose Behnke Summer 1988

“I love to go a-wandering Along the mountain track.” This song, The Happy Wanderer by Frank Weir, has repeatedly been playing in my mind this past week while creating ads for our online gift shop. Seeing photos of woodlands and moss-covered logs reminds me of a time that seems like yesterday.  My grandmother, Rose Behnke, loved nothing more than to go out in the world to see and do as much as she could. Some of the best memories I have are when we would venture out to the FOREST behind their property to go a-wandering. 

Rose Behnke’s Dream Home In Burtonsville, Maryland

My grandparents, Albert and Rose Behnke built their dream home in Burtonsville, Maryland, around 1965. What would become a labor of love turned the property into one of the most beautiful gardens in the area. Folks would come from all over to wander around their gardens.  Wandering was the best way to see all the wonderful gardens that Albert and Rose created on their property.  Rose was famous for adding many little plaques all over the gravel pathways with beautiful sayings. Her favorite was this poem which is now in my garden. 

The Kiss of the sun for pardon,
The song of the birds for mirth,
One is nearer God’s heart in a garden,
Than anywhere else on earth. 

Going A Wandering With My Grandmother

Located next to their property was the ‘Magical Forest,” as my grandmother would call it. We would get the dogs and take a walk —wandering as she would call it. Looking for treasures, as I would call it. The dogs would pull us in different directions, all the while Oma (German for Grandmother) would be laughing and singing. Oma would sing in German, French, and English and sometimes mix them all up together. Neither one of us could carry a tune. However, she taught me that it did not matter as long as it made us happy. We would always bring home bits of moss or twigs to put in her waterfall that they had built in their sunroom. 

I never knew till I became an Oma just how important those times were for her and me—sharing an adventure while marching along the unmarked path. I was sure I would be lost forever. The FOREST was never-ending. Later I saw that it really was just a small patch of trees that have long since been removed for new homes. But what an adventure it was.  

I still see Oma, with her white tennis hat and scarf flapping in the breeze. We did have so much fun out there together. I learned the art of storytelling from her. She could make up a fairy tail just by looking at a particular tree or rock. It is one thing I have always loved to do with my grandchildren. Tell a story from nothing. I hope I did it with my children when they were growing up. I seem to recall sitting in doctors’ offices, and when they start to fidget, I would tell them to look at the pictures on the wall. Mostly they were of landscapes. We would then weave a story about the people that might have walked across that meadow or stream. 

Rose’s sense of adventure did not stop with hiking. She loved to travel all over the world. After she retired, she tried to visit as many countries as she could. I was lucky enough to go with her to Europe one Summer with my cousin Jeanne.  That is a story for another time.

Happy Birthday Rose Behnke ~ Never Stop Wandering, Even In Heaven

Happy 112th Birthday, Rose Behnke; I know you are wandering along heaven’s garden path singing a joyful song.  Below is a photograph of my grandmother at her 80th birthday party that the employees gave her at Behnke’s in Beltsville. 

Rose Behnke's 80th Birthday

Stephanie Fleming

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 21 Comments

  1. My mother and father Edna and Paul HollidayMoved into Beltsville in 1936. My mother told me she used to play cards with your grandmother. We just sold our house in Lexington Avenue in 2020 after 80 years of us living there. It was a sad day. I follow your writings when they’re posted and enjoy them. Thanks for the info. Kathy Pinto

    1. I will have to check with my mother Sonja if she remembers your mother. I understand how hard it must have been to have sold your home and move. I hope you are enjoying where you are now. Thanks for reading!
      take care and stay safe

  2. Thank you, Stephanie, for sharing your warm and loving memories about your Oma. Her favorite poem expresses exactly how I feel~~the garden and gardening puts me very close to Mother Nature. Some day in the neaar future I would like to share that feeling with my several grandchildren. ~Elaine

    1. What a remarkable, warm and loving story to share in these dark and troubled times. You have shined a light into the gloom, and we are all thankful.


      1. Aww, thanks so much for your kind words! There is a saying that goes, I see a light at the end of the tunnel and it is not a train! We will all get through this time together.
        take care and stay safe

    2. I can’t wait for the day we can all see our families. I am very blessed to live next door to two of my grandchildren but it really has been hard on everyone! Long walks and making up stories has helped a lot.
      take care and stay safe

  3. Love the poem. Grew up on U of MD Plant Research Farm 538 acres of glory. Sadly it is now Riderwood and Orchard Center (where our apple orchard was) hence the name. My father a horticulturist ran the farm for years until mandatory retirement. He still went to work there after that. Can’t take the farm out of a farmer. As to the poem remember–He who sings, prays twice.

    1. Love that! He who sings prays twice! So very true. It is sad when a family property becomes something else but that is what happens. One of the main reasons I have started Beyond Behnke’s is to hopefully keep some of the memories alive of Behnke Nurseries as it will become something else. Thank you for taking the time to write.
      take care and stay safe

  4. Thank you for the inspiring story about your grandmother which was a joy to read. We have always loved a-wandering and considering ‘All the works Thy hand has made’ Yesterday we wandered along the Cascade Falls Trail by Ellicott City. It felt so good! The trail was ideal for us oldies as it was just two miles return, and wandered beside the stream most of the way. The track will be muddy for the next couple of days though, as the snow melts.
    Blessings, Elizabeth and Bruce ( who is now 65 and first came to Behnkes in a stroller!)

    1. thank you so much for sharing this. My husband and I have talked about driving to Ellicott City for our walks.

  5. How lucky we were to know our grandparents. I knew my Mother’s mother and my Father’s father
    Your Grandmother was one year older than my mother who passed away in February 2009, age 99
    My father grew roses ? in Capitol Hill DC and then in NW DC. I sold their house to my nephew last year
    My son braved the ice on Valentine’s Day to bring me roses. I planted roses to honor my parents
    Thank you for this weekend’s newsletter
    ??. Edna

    1. I think we all have a story inside us. We just need to write them down. I am blessed so many seem to enjoy reading them 🙂
      My grandfather’s rose garden was a beautiful place. I will always associate him with a big bouquet of roses.

      take care,

  6. Thank you for sharing these wonderful stories of you and your Oma. What a beautiful relationship you had with her. The woods is my favorite nature setting, so I can totally relate!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back To Top