The third time is usually a charm. But for Karen and Dutch Schedler, it was a turning point.
Three green front lawns. Three failures. One big decision: xeriscape.
“As a new home, there was nothing, but bare ground for landscaping. Like everyone else, we tried a green front lawn, but each was attacked by some pest or disaster,” Karen Schedler recalled. “We then sat back and wondered why we weren't working with nature.”
Schedler, a longtime educator, dove in and began attending free classes about water-wise landscaping offered through the city of Tempe. In 1991, the couple made the leap.
“We were the first in this block to convert to xeriscaping and have watched as most others have now followed suit in their front yards,” she said.
The Schedlers transformed both the front and back yards at their south Tempe home into desert gardens and, along the way, created an urban habitat for lizards, birds, butterflies and more.
The goal, Schedler said, is to work with nature to provide a haven for wildlife and pollinators.
“Of course, not needing all that water to maintain a green lawn — plus the lack of mowing — is a benefit as well!” she said.
Schedler’s garden is one of nine being featured on the annual Tour de Bird event Nov. 5 organized by Desert Rivers Audubon Society. The self-guided tour showcases bird-friendly, water-wise gardens and parks throughout the East Valley.
The Schedlers were newlyweds when they bought their new 1,200-square-foot home in 1972. It was typical of tract homes of that era and the neighborhood today retains the same 1970s feeling.
Two years ago, Karen Schedler lost her husband and now shares the home with her two dogs, Jibwa and Savanna. Her grandchildren are frequent explorers in her garden, peeking under rocks for critters or trying to capture butterflies.
The cozy home is filled with antique furniture — treasures from various family members — and also an eye-catching stein collection that belonged to Dutch. Windows throughout offer views of various parts of the front and back gardens.
The property’s transformation has been a labor of love. The front garden features a mix of trees, bushes and cactus that are almost exclusively native plants from the Sonoran and Chihuahuan deserts. The backyard includes a variety of trees and bushes, potted plants, two raised vegetable beds, and a composting area.
The property has become a well-traveled habitat for wildlife. On any given day, the gardens are alive with the sights and sounds of hummingbirds flitting around a Baja fairy duster or verdins nesting in the large Palo Brea tree or bees buzzing up to a desert lavender.
The property has received designations as a certified wildlife habitat from the National Wildlife Federation and a bird habitat from Desert Rivers Audubon Society. Schedler also decided to join the Million Pollinator Garden Challenge, which seeks to increase the number of pollinator-friendly gardens and landscapes.
“The bird and pollinator habitat signs (in the front garden) raise inquiries and offer me the opportunity to help promote the message of conservation, both of water and of wildlife,” Schedler said. “Pollinators worldwide are in serious trouble so whatever I can do to promote their welfare ranks high on my list of priorities.”
Several years ago, the Schedlers added a pergola to the backyard, and it offers the perfect place to relax with a book or watch the wildlife at work in the yard, Schedler said.
“They’re pretty fascinating if we just take time to listen and observe,” she said.
“I love the solitude and time for reflection I have in my little piece of the world,” she said. “I can watch bees, butterflies, lizards, and a number of different bird species move about my little 'sanctuary'.
“It offers me a chance to commune with nature without ever having to leave my yard.”