On the road with Garden Variety

I was the guest of owner Stephanie Fleming at Behnke's Nursery in Beltsville, Md., this weekend -- giving my talk on "Gardening on the Internet" during their spring open house -- and she was kind enough to give me a history lesson of the family-owned garden center.

The nursery was founded in 1930 by her grandparents, Albert and Rose Behnke, and she grew up in a little house that is still on the property.

Her mother, Sonja Behnke Festerling, was featured on the cover of the Washington Star weekend magazine as a 17-year-old beauty, watering African violets, which was one of the nursery's mainstays.

"We sent violets to every first lady from Bess Truman to Nancy Reagan, and we have all their thank-you notes," said Stephanie.

The office at the nursery is filled with pictures -- overhead shots of the nursery during different times -- and they are a vision of Beltsville in its agricultural prime.





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