Before: A boring parking strip. Now? A whimsical planter

Some homeowners might find the gnarled roots of a sycamore tree a difficult place to plant a garden, but not Brigette Schroeder.

For some residents of Rossmoor, where Schroeder lives with her husband, Hartmut, there have been disputes over tree damage, including buckled sidewalks and plumbing problems. For others, the trees are a huge factor in the community’s appeal.

For Schroeder, who has lived in Rossmoor since 1989, the sycamore trees served as an inspiration when she grew weary of watering her lawn and decided to remove it. 

She first addressed the parking strip, which featured a 50-year-old sycamore tree.

“I’m passionate about gardening, but the drought is an issue,” Schroeder said. “I don’t want to water. Instead of complaining about grass and roots, I decided to turn it into something artsy and creative.”

Schroeder first hired someone to remove the grass, leaving her a blank canvas.

Once the tree roots were exposed and the ground was empty, she was delighted to realize that the roots created an idiosyncratic planter of sorts. She proceeded to plant cactus and succulents in the gaps between the roots and added pebbles and pine cones from a neighborhood park. She followed up with mulch, more pebbles and assorted tree stumps.

“I didn’t have a script,” she said of the work in progress. “I created it as I went along.”

With the exception of the turf removal, Schroeder said the project has been simple and inexpensive. “All I did was buy organic cactus dirt. Everything else came from existing plants I already had around the house,” she said. 

And like so many plant lovers, the act of gardening has a meditative quality for Schroeder.  

“I’m a Realtor, and everything is texting and phones and driving all day long,” she said. “This is a stress-reliever for me. Give me some gloves, some pebbles and I forget everything when I dig in the dirt. It’s a workout for my mind and body.”

Not surprisingly, Schroeder’s garden became a hit with her neighbors, prompting her to have some fun with it — by hiding things for the neighborhood kids to find.

“My hidden animals, mainly frogs, have become a treasure hunt for kids that walk with their parents,” she said. “I can't tell you how many times people stop and admire our front yard. I have met so many new people in the neighborhood. It feels nice that people enjoy walking by and that I can show them what you can do by trying to save water.”

If you'd like to submit photos of your drought garden makeover, please do so at Bonus points if you include a "before" image as well.

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This post misspells Brigitte Schroeder’s first name as Brigette.
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