Southern Maryland This is Living is a full-color high-gloss print publication focusing on the unique flavor and out standing offerings of the Southern Maryland region. It is the area's first regional publication designed to create excitement about the richness of life available in Southern Maryland.  The on-line edition is published in partnership with Southern Maryland Online.

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Annmarie Garden

A Gift That Will Always Remain

Story by Christine Basham
Photography by Stephanie Konecny

Fran Koenig knew that the best investments have lasting value.  When he first bought 30 acres of land on St John’s Creek in Solomons, he wasn’t sure how his investment would pay off.  But after turning down myriad offers to develop the land over more than three decades, Koenig donated the land to the people of Calvert County.

Since its inception in 1992, Annmarie Garden on Saint John has earned a reputation among Southern Marylanders as a quiet, peaceful place to relax and focus on the beauty of nature—and of art.  Open daily from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., the Garden’s landscaping and sculptural installations are the perfect setting for a stroll or a family picnic.

The landscaping at Annmarie Garden is not just beautiful.  It also aims to protect heirloom plant species, such as the glen dale azalea.  Since 1996, more than 1,000 glen dales have been established at Annmarie Garden’s Azalea Project.  This year, however, there are no new azaleas.  Instead, the foundation that runs Annmarie Garden is in consultation with landscape architects and other local experts to revitalize the Garden’s master plan.

Annmarie Garden also houses indoor gallery space, with a new artist on display almost every weekend.  According to Jennifer Draxton, who first volunteered and now is an administrator on staff at Annmarie Garden, the constant rotation of new artists is meant to ensure a variety of artistic styles and media for the public.

With free admission to both the garden and the gallery, it’s a treasure for everyone interested in the visual arts—and a great way for parents to show their children a variety of artists, without a long, expensive, day trip. 

This May, Annmarie Garden hosted Calvert Hospital’s Keep Well program “Mind, Body, Spirit,” a one-day event for women, incorporating accupuncture, massage therapy, and a labyrinth. 

Of course, for many Southern Marylanders, Annmarie Garden is best known as the host of Artsfest, an annual festival of the visual and performing arts. For just a five dollar admission fee, fest-goers this year will meet approximately 170 artists and craftspersons, see their works up close and even watch some demonstrations as they stroll through the garden and shop for art, from useful pieces to things you don’t need, but have to bring home.  There will also be three stages for performing artists. 

For kids more interested in doing than watching, the discovery tent at Artsfest is a reliable treat, with several hands-on art projects.

With so many things to do and see, and a garden-full of eager artists willing to share their passion, it’s an event to savor.  Stay as long as you can to nourish your spirit and your mind.  And if hunger strikes, the food and beverage vendors at Artsfest can take care of your down-to-earth needs. 

This year’s Artsfest will be held September 20 and 21, from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm.

For the past four years, Annmarie Garden has also hosted a daylight Halloween event for trick-or-treaters.  With the help of local organizations, each decorating their own niche along the garden pathways, children from all over Southern Maryland have a safe place to trick-or-treat. 

“The first year, I worried we wouldn’t have even 100 kids show up,” says Jennifer Draxton.  But the event has been popular from the start, and now routinely sees between four and five thousand trick-or-treaters each year.  Last year, the event cost $1 per child, which went to buy perishable items for local holiday food programs. 

According to Draxton, talks are in the works with the group that organized BG&E’s yearly haunted house at Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Plant.  The event has been on hold since the terrorist attacks of September, 2001, but there is hope that a partnership between the two organizations could bring back the haunted house, on the grounds of Annmarie Garden. 

Winding up the calendar year, Annmarie Garden is also known for the annual Christmas Garden in Lights.  For the price of a can of food, or a cash donation to local food bank programs, Christmas Garden in Lights is a highlight of the holiday season. Last year, Annmarie Garden added $30,000 in lights, and extended their decorations into an adjacent plot of land, currently under evaluation by the foundation to see how best to incorporate it into Annmarie Garden’s master plan. 

With summer in full swing, Annmarie Garden is in its peak season.  But even in the short, cold days of winter, Annmarie Garden has art on display for the people of Southern Maryland.  The beautiful gates of Annmarie Garden never close to the public.

As Fran Koenig was known to say, “Everything I have built in my life will someday be taken down.  Annmarie Garden will always remain.” 

For information, visit www.annmariegarden.org or call 410-326-4640.

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The on-line edition of Southern Maryland This is Living magazine is presented in partnership with Southern Maryland Online