Getting to Know Lifestyle and Landscape Designer Mary Palmer Dargan

Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Taking a stroll in The Village Green is a pleasant pastime any time of year. The gardens in the park boast cheerful flowers in spring and vibrant colors in the fall, and the brightly colored winter berries often contrast with snow-covered branches and paths.  But the variety of plants that bloom in the lively summer months in The Village Green are especially picturesque.

The English architect William Kent observed that “all gardening is landscape painting.” Many of The Village Green garden areas are works of art created by local landscape architect Mary Palmer Dargan. Like an artist with a canvas, she designs timeless, beautiful places where life can be experienced to its fullest.

Mary Palmer and her husband Hugh discovered the Cashiers area, as many others have, through friends who had homes here. But it was in 1991 when Ann McKee Austin invited them to speak at the first Wade Hampton Owners Home-Coming Gathering, that they found themselves coming home. She said, “I remember the very grand home packed with guests when it lost its electricity in a huge storm.”  She reflected that this resulted in a party atmosphere with her and Hugh, instead of presenting the planned slide show improvised a “Sonny & Cher of Garden Design” comedy routine.

Both Mary Palmer and Hugh have been dedicated supporters and volunteers with The Village Green, including Mary Palmer serving three terms on the board of directors.  They have been generous to share their passion and gifts in numerous ways to enhance the park. We recently asked Mary Palmer a series of questions about the ways she has both contributed to the beautiful places in The Village Green as well as how they enjoy this treasured public green space.

Village Green: You’ve designed several gardens in The Village Green. Do you have a favorite one?

Mary Palmer: Definitely the Hayes Fairchild Memorial Garden along with the tune-ups over the past several years.

[Editor’s Note: Hayes Fairchild was a gifted landscape architect who was passionate about therapeutic gardens.  Mary Palmer used her shared passion for creating healing gardens to design this memorial garden to appeal to the five senses. The colors, textures, fragrances, even the sounds of wind chimes and bubbler fountain, invite visitors to slow down, reflect, and bask in the healing benefits of being in nature.)

Village Green: What is your favorite thing to do in the park and why?

Mary Palmer: Besides dancing [in the grass] at Friday concerts, I love walking the boardwalk and the peaceful, fragrant woodland trails with Hugh and our Boykin Spaniel, little Henry.

Village Green: How does your garden inspire you to bring it into the rest of your life?

Mary Palmer: Garden colors bring zip and a zesty outlook on life while shade and water nurture serenity and meditation.

Village Green: You’re doing a program at the Village Green Shops during the weekend of Joy Garden Tour, at 5 p.m. Friday, July 16 at the Commons.  You’ll be demonstrating mixology, creating beverages from plants foraged from your garden and nature.  Do you have a favorite plant to forage for your shrubs and tonics?

Mary Palmer: The native plant, Sambucus, or elderberry, is hands down my favorite garden plant to forage.  The flowers make a glass of brilliant summer champagne with fizz and a little sauvignon blanc.  The berries are highly nutritious and make a grand robust red wine, especially fortified with a cabernet sauvignon.

Village Green: What is in your picnic basket when you picnic in The Village Green?

Mary Palmer: Well, I have a surplus of bright purple Inca potatoes, so an experimental summer salad with lemon, olive oil, rice vinegar, chives, capers, goat cheese, and celery on bibb lettuce.. Handmade crackers from the Cashiers Farmer’s Market. These plus some elderflower frizz to brighten up the moment! Green stag (melamine) plates and flushing quail reusable glasses from Kevin’s of Thomasville – plus pretty green “garden party” toile napkins with bamboo cutlery- all set out on a festive waterproof ground cloth to make it comfortable. OH! …and a little glass vase for wildflowers and mint.

As you can see, Mary Palmer’s artistic ability is not limited to the landscape paintings she creates.  She designs beautiful gardens that enrich all of life.

Mary Palmer Dargan will present a unique twist on Happy Hour with “Pouring the Garden In a Glass” at 5 p.m. Friday, July 16 at the Commons under the Joy Garden Tour event tent. She will demonstrate how to forage ingredients from the garden to make delicious and refreshing beverages, both non-alcoholic but also some with wine and other spirits.

The event is free, however, a reservation is required.  Email director@cashiersgreen.com to RSVP to this invitation.

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