Friday, April 22, 2011

Favorite Native Plants - Alex Dencker picks Behnke Baysafes

It's a little like "preaching to the choir" to tout the praises of Behnke's Nurseries to DC area gardeners. After all, Behnkes has a long history in the area, with their first store having opened over 80 years ago in Beltsville, Maryland.

Behnkes also has a strong commitment to the environment, helping to educate their customers about plants and activites that are best practices for protecting the local eco-system.

To help make eco-friendly plant choices a little easier, Behnke's has even developed their own labeling system for BaySafe plants, affixing a bright blue " Behnke BaySafe" label to native perennials and woody plants.

Why should gardeners grow BaySafe plants?
Native plants are critical for the environment. Many serve as food sources for native insects, which in turn are food sources for birds and other animals. Most native insects are unable to feed on non-native plants; thus, food sources for our song birds are reduced when we plant non-native plants. Yes, you will have some feeding damage, holes in leaves from caterpillars, but it is critical for species diversity that gardeners include native plants in their landscapes. In addition, since native plants are well-adapted to our local climate and native soil, they will require less care than many non-natives.

I've been anxious to get a list of "Favorite Native Plants" from someone at Behnkes to add to my recent series on the topic, and Susan Harris, blogger for Behnkes (and Gardenrant, Lawn Reform Coalition and other great, fun sites) was able to help me out.

Here is a list of Favorite Native Plants from Alex Dencker, who has worked at Behnkes for over 20 years and is currently the manager of the Potomac store.

Alex Dencker is wild about native plants, and suggests them to customers at Behnkes Nurseries every chance he gets. Asked to choose his top "got-to-have" native plants for the garden, Alex gushed about these:  

Ferns: New York Fern (Thelypteris noveboracensis) , Cinnamon Fern (Osmunda cinnamomea L.)  

Grasses and "grass-like stuff": Carex (sedges), River Oats (Chasmanthium latifolium), Panicum spp, and Little Bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium).

Flowering Plants: Columbine, Milkweed, New York and New England Aster, Bugbane (Cimicifuga racemosa), Joe-Pye Weed, Heuchera villosa, Virginia bluebells, Penstemon digitalis, Mountain mint, Solidago ("goldenrod), and tiarella cordifolia.

Trees: Serviceberry, River Birch, Cornus alternifolia, Redbud, American holly, Sweetbay Magnolia, Sourgum, and these oaks: White, Willow, Scarlet and Red.  

Vines: Crossvine, Wisteria frutescens, and Decumaria barbara. To find out more about Behnkes, visit their website. And while you are there, bookmark their events page for upcoming events.


  1. [...] Dencker, well-known native-plant enthusiast and our Potomac manager, is making a guest appearance today on the wonderful local blog Metro DC Lawn and Garden – check it out. And no surprise, he's recommending his favorite native plants for [...]

  2. We are very lucky to have Alex at Behnke's. He started there at a very young age working directly for Albert Behnke in his private gardens. Alex was also a big part Behnke BaySafe


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