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Green Farmacy Garden

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Fulton, MD
Sanctuary Stewards: Jim and Peggy Duke

"Wintergreen's a breath of spring on the wintry forest floor
It makes a body sing when the songs don’t come no more..."

Nestled between the hustle bustle of the Baltimore-Washington, DC metropolitan region, where the piedmont meets the coastal plain in the Patuxent River valley, is the Green Farmacy Garden. The Green Farmacy Garden is home to over three-hundred native and non-native plants, red-shouldered hawks, song birds, myriad species of Lepidoptera, cicada killers, water snakes, tree frogs, white-tailed deer and Jim and Peggy Duke. Jim and Peggy have been collecting medicinal plants for over sixty years and in 1997 transformed part of their pasture land into a teaching garden highlighting medicinal plants, many of which are featured in Jim’s book, The Green Pharmacy. On most days, while Peggy is working on botanical illustrations, Jim can be found strolling barefooted through the garden terraces or the forested yin-yang valley in search of plant material to add to his daily soup, greeting visitors, compiling information to add to his USDA database or composing new herbal verses.

“Wintergreen, where you been? You’re the prettiest thing I’ve seen.
Breath of spring--throughout the year,
Summer’s smile--Christmas cheer.”

“At-risk” and “to watch” species are tended to along with plants from around the world in what we consider a Noah’s Ark of medicinal plants. Plants from the garden have been analyzed for their growth, survival and occasionally for chemical constituents. Students of many backgrounds come to be introduced to the plants they know only from text learning. The garden also attracts local community groups ranging from garden clubs to church groups, government agencies such as the FDA, NIH and USDA and doctors of western and eastern practices. This past year, we were visited from journalists of well known publications and TV news stations.

“Trailing nimbly on the ground
where the sunshine’s rarely seen.
What a breath of spring I found
Taste of April, Wintergreen!”

Occasionally, individuals with specific medicinal conditions, such as Parkinson’s disease, cancer and arthritis are interested in seeking alternatives to the conventional treatments and are drawn to tour the garden. For many of these individuals, the experience of just being in the garden surrounded by so many healing plants is therapeutic. Students from the Tai Sophia Institute come on a regular basis as a part of their curriculum and to hear the wondrous stories that Jim shares with them. We frequently receive students from local universities such as the University of Maryland and Johns Hopkins.

“There are others may outshine you. They’re more showy for awhile;
But the wintertime won’t snow you,
You’ve still got your springtime smile.”

Current conservation projects include an effort to establish Schisandra glabra, which is native to the southeastern United States. Two years ago, twenty (20) one-year-old Panax quinquefolium were planted and monitored for their survival rate. The garden acquired rescued native plants, like wintergreen and trailing arbutus, from land development and has attempted to replicate their optimum growing conditions.

Wintergreen, where you been? You’re the prettiest thing I’ve seen.
Breath of spring--throughout the year,
Summer’s smile--Christmas cheer.
To visit the Green Farmacy Garden is to visit a plant sanctuary of medicinal plants in the distant shadow of the nation’s capital, but it is also a visit to an outdoor amphitheatre of poetry, prose and lyrics written and sung by Jim Duke.

Breath of spring throughout the year.
Like the mountain air so clean;
Wear the snowdrop like a tear.
Constant lover, wintergreen!

Wintergreen, where you been? You’re the prettiest thing I’ve seen.
Breath of spring--throughout the year,
Summer’s smile--Christmas cheer.
Summer’s smile--Christmas cheer.

Wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens)/ Duke, J. A. 1985. Herbalbum; An Anthology of Varicose Verse.

Here is another one of Jim’s songs:


Mayapple Lemonade

Penobscot Indians up in Maine, Had a very pithy sayin’,
Rub the root most everyday, and it’ll take the warts away.

Farther south the Cherokee, echoing Menominee
Made a tea out of the roots, to keep the bugs off potato shoot.

CHORUS: Mayapple lemonade, wildest thing my momma made,
Coolest thing there in the shade, fruits of amber, leaves of jade,

They couldn’t know etoposide, nor of its aid to homicide
Nor could they know the course it charts, for cancer of the private parts.

I’ll venture to prognosticate, before my song is sung
This herb will help alleviate, cancer of the lung.

CHORUS: Mayapple lemonade, wildest thing my momma made,
Coolest herb in the summer shade, swing your partner’n promenade.

Duke, J. A. 1985. Herbalbum; An Anthology of Varicose Verse.

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