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Mary Palmer Dargan’s ‘Lifelong Landscape Design’: Spring’s ‘must have’ book

On April 26, students from the University of Tennessee were contemplating what to do with their upcoming three months of freedom from school, with one student confessing he would be spending his time in Georgia doing landscaping, according to the Daily Beacon. Mary Palmer Dargan knows all about that, as her and her husband Hugh’s landscaping firm in Buckhead is open year round.

Doing landscaping is a lot of hard work and I usually start at like 6 and the heat is crazy, especially in Georgia, but seeing the job done at the end of the day makes it a success,” Cameron Larose said.

Mary Palmer Dargan would likely agree with the UTK student because she’s worked for 40 years in the field of landscape architecture, and a majority of that time has been spent in Georgia. Dargan’s designs populate many of the grounds of the homes in the Atlanta community as a result. But she designs landscapes beyond Buckhead too.

As an author, the expert landscape architect seeks to educate the homeowners she has not had the pleasure of working with, giving them the tools they need to design their own special utopia. And she accomplishes that with her latest book, Lifelong Landscape Design, and its predecessor, Timeless Landscape Design.

Mary says “no one is born knowing how to garden,” and that it is through experimentation that we each come to design our personal outdoor places.Designing those spaces, however, is usually motivated by changing needs, hence the reason for the first word in the title for her book: lifelong.

This “lifelong” endeavor of developing a utopia for the home landscape might start as a herb garden on the balcony of an apartment as a single adult, according to Mary. Yet as we change and grow, so too does our landscapes, typically following progressions as singles living in apartment buildings to families living in a suburban setting. But that’s not always true, of course, with many families living in urban settings instead.

And that’s why Mary Palmer Dargan seeks to help every person create their own “master plan” for developing a utopia setting from the landscape they already have. Her book provides as many as 200 landscape patterns to choose from, or to serve as inspiration. And the photos depicted give readers a visual representation of the landscapes presented.

Dargan talks of how to create rain gardens, the importance of creating feeding stations in the landscape for your pets, and how much a beautiful and calming landscape can help reduce stress in daily living.

The Atlanta-based landscape architect believes that gardening is therapy in addition to providing healthier foods for the table, and she says the fragrance provided by blooming flowers in your own oasis is an aromatherapy experience you don’t have to buy from someone else.

Designing your own utopia at home should include lifelong landscape activities in addition to special places, according to Dargan. And that can include activities like growing a vegetable garden in a pot or doing stretching exercises on the grassy green lawn.

Strolling through a flower garden or swimming a couple of laps in a lake or pool within the home landscape qualify as lifelong landscape activities too, although the former might be the wiser for those seniors with physical challenges. And that brings the subject back to the focus of Dargan’s landscaping book: creating utopian landscapes based upon the stage of life.

Those interested in a landscape design book that covers everything a homeowner needs to know about developing their site for the maximum in healthy living and enjoyment can find it in Mary Palmer Dargan’s Lifelong Landscape Design.

The hardcover book is available online at for approximately $22.50 based on April pricing. It is also available in a Kindle edition for half that price.

© Radell Smith

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