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New Ownership Sought for Jim and Peggy Duke’s Maryland Property and ‘Green Farmacy Garden’

By Connor YearsleyGreen Farmacy Garden

The Maryland University of Integrative Health (MUIH) based in Laurel, Maryland, is seeking a buyer for the former property of renowned ethnobotanist James “Jim” Alan Duke, PhD (1929–2017), and his wife, Peggy (1931–2021), a prolific botanical artist.

The 6.08-acre property in Fulton, Maryland, is about 20 miles north of Washington, DC, and includes a house that was the Duke family residence and an extensive garden, which the Dukes called the “Green Farmacy Garden.” Jim, who was a co-founder of the American Botanical Council (ABC), and Peggy entered into a financial arrangement with MUIH in the early 2000s regarding the property and the garden. MUIH assumed ownership of the property when Peggy died in April 2021.

Now, however, since most MUIH classes are online because of the pandemic, the university does not have substantial educational use for the property and wants to transfer it to an individual or organization that will ideally and hopefully maintain the garden and continue to make the site open to the public.

Jim and Peggy, who collected medicinal plants for more than 60 years, purchased the property in 1971. In 1997, they commissioned the transformation of part of the pastureland into the Green Farmacy Garden, a teaching garden that highlights the plants in Jim’s book The Green Pharmacy (Rodale, 1997).

Garden terraceThe garden is a sanctuary for about 300 native and non-native plant species that have been used traditionally and/or researched for medicinal purposes. It has four terraces with 80 plots designated for 80 different medical indications. Plant species that either grow or have grown in Terrace One include ashwagandha (Withania somnifera, Solanaceae), pomegranate (Punica granatum, Lythraceae), and saw palmetto (Serenoa repens, Arecaceae), among many others. Terrace Two has included bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis, Papaveraceae), kava (Piper methysticum, Piperaceae), and pineapple (Ananas comosus, Bromeliaceae). Terrace Three has included arnica (Arnica montana, Asteraceae), stinging nettle (Urtica dioica, Urticaceae), and yaupon (Ilex vomitoria, Aquifoliaceae). Terrace Four has included chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla, Asteraceae), echinacea (Echinacea spp., Asteraceae), and witch hazel (Hamamelis spp., Hamamelidaceae).

The house has a sunroom with a deck, a lower-level studio with French doors, a living room, dining room, large master bedroom, two smaller bedrooms, four full baths, office space, a kitchen with a pantry, a basement for storage, a screened porch, and a greenhouse. The four-terraced garden has a pond with a waterfall. Another pond is located on the field part of the Gazeboproperty. Many plant species grow in the garden, woods, or are tropical and spend the winters in the greenhouse.

In addition, the property includes a barn and shed that can be used for storage, a screened gazebo, shade shelter, a patio off of the lower level with a small fireplace, and a large chimney fireplace at the bottom of the property. Trails lead from the garden area into the woods where medicinal and native plants grow and are bordered by two creeks with bridge crossings. The property is bordered by stream valleys, a farm field, and a few homes that are barely visible.

Thousands of people have visited and many have been inspired by the property and garden, including students from MUIH, whose campus is about three miles from the garden. For now, the MUIH garden staff is continuing to maintain the site, which is also part of the Botanical Sanctuary Network of the United Plant Savers (UpS), a nonprofit membership organization that educates the public and fosters the conservation of native American medicinal plant species.

“My father’s wish was to continue the garden indefinitely for educational purposes,” wrote Celia Duke Larsen, Jim and Peggy’s daughter (email, December 9, 2021). “The garden reflects his passion and his life’s work studying the medicinal qualities of plants from around the world. During the 50 or so years that my folks owned the property, he lectured there, gave tours, hosted events, played music, and just enjoyed being in the garden (usually barefoot) with Peggy and their friends.  

Class in the garden with Jim Duke“We are looking for someone (or an organization) who shares his passion and would like to maintain the garden for its educational value and enjoyment,” Larsen added. “The key … would be to permit or promote some degree of educational benefit. If not, … then the garden and the adjacent woods should at least be conserved and enjoyed by someone who very much wants to keep them. It would be heartbreaking to see the land chopped up and developed.”

Andrea Ottesen, PhD, a friend of the Duke family and mentee of Jim who co-authored papers and books and taught classes with him (and now is a scientist at the US Food and Drug Administration), wrote: “I wish my years with Jim could start again tomorrow to advance and celebrate the Green Farmacy Garden with him. He created such a sanctuary — not just with the plants in the formal garden, but the whole place is swathed in native forest with views of trees and fields. Everywhere you turn there are secret paths and sitting spots. It is a place with so much love of nature and so much dedication to natural medicine that it is impossible to visit without absorbing some of that” (email, December 10, 2021).

Gardening teamAccording to Helen Lowe Metzman, the former garden director at the Green Farmacy Garden and family friend, an ideal buyer should be passionate about plants, ethnobotany, gardening, education, and retaining the legacy of Jim and Peggy Duke. “The buyer ideally should have the ability to maintain and oversee six acres, which includes the garden, field, and forest: a bucolic oasis situated between Washington, DC, and Baltimore, Maryland,” she wrote (email, December 12, 2021). “The garden should be conserved and possibly expanded as an educational garden…. The trails winding through the yin/yang wooded valley should also be maintained as a learning forest or a place to retreat and commune with nature.

“The Green Farmacy Garden and the Dukes’ home have been loved by many over the decades and deserve to be in the hands of a new set of owners who also have the vision, energy, and time to devote to maintaining and cultivating their own passion for plants,” Metzman continued. “There is much potential at the Green Farmacy Garden for anyone who loves plants and gardening and wants to follow in the literal footsteps of Jim and Peggy Duke.”

For more information on the property, including details about pricing, please contact Marc Levin, president of MUIH, at mlevin@muih.edu. The garden’s website is thegreenfarmacygarden.com/.

Image Credit

All images of the Maryland property courtesy of Helen Lowe Metzman

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