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Pan’s Garden an ‘oasis’ of peace and quiet

Posted On: 11-03-2016

By David Rogers

Daily News Staff Writer

Back in the early 1990s, Palm Beacher Lydia Mann and the Preservation Foundation of Palm Beach had an idea. They imagined transforming a large lot at the east end of the 300 block of Hibiscus Avenue into a showcase for Florida-friendly plants.

At the time, the combined, half-acre property that is now Pan’s Garden was the site of a dilapidated house and a parking lot with spaces rented by the month, according to resident Jorge Sanchez.

With Mann paying for the land and the foundation raising money for construction, Sanchez, a landscape designer, created a wetland area on the north side. He also created a highlands area to the south, and an open courtyard in the middle that is flanked by two small Mediterranean Revival-style buildings containing restrooms, a horticulturalist office and storage space.

> More: Living Wall on Worth Avenue a high-profile garden in Palm Beach

Mann and the foundation floated the idea of creating a garden that used disease-resistant, drought-tolerant plants, Sanchez said. He pushed the concept further by suggesting the garden be populated with hybrid versions of plants that would have been here when settlers of European descent arrived in the 1800s.

“We had a devil of a time trying to find the plants that we were looking for,” Sanchez said. Some “mom and pop” nurseries carried some of the native plants Sanchez needed. For others, he took volunteers to woodlands around Lake Okeechobee, where his family owned property at the time.

At Mann’s suggestion, Pan’s Garden became a place to teach children about local history and plants.

Daniele Garson, director of Pan’s Garden, said school groups visit to learn how native people used plants for food, shelter and medicine. And adult groups from botanical societies and neighborhood associations come to the garden for inspiration, she said.

The garden shows how plant options in South Florida extend far beyond hibiscus and bougainvillea.

“I can’t believe what we were able to accomplish in a small space. It was excellent planning and designing on his part,” Garson said of Sanchez.

The Preservation Foundation achieved the goal of creating a place of peace and quiet in the center of Palm Beach, Sanchez said.

“It’s a block away from Chanel and Tiffany and the rest of Worth Avenue — and it’s absolute peace and quiet with bird life and all that. It has become the oasis we were looking for,” Sanchez said.

Behind the name

Mann, who died a few years after the garden opened in 1994, rejected a push to have the park named for her.

Sanchez had incorporated a water fountain featuring Pan, the ancient god of shepherds and flocks into the design. The garden’s focus on children made Pan’s Garden the perfect name, he said.

And through a bit of serendipity, no one had to build a wall fountain with steps Sanchez had conceived for the garden’s western border. In 1987, a developer bought the then-18-acre Casa Apava estate and subdivided it five years later.

A tiled wall section from that property was saved by cutting it into a few pieces and reassembling it in Pan’s Garden, Sanchez said. “We did a basin in front of it and voila, that was how the fountain came to be,” he said.



David Rogers, November 3, 2016, Palm Beach Daily NewsSource

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