When Charlotte Schnur retired to the valley from Massachusetts she knew there would be an adjustment period. The summers were a fair trade for the East Coast winters, and the 300-plus days of sunshine seemed like a great added value. But the former art history professor had a hard time adjusting to one thing: desert landscaping.
“I had a true English garden (in Massachusetts),” she said. “My backyard was a showplace. I came here and said ‘Oh my!’ ”
Schnur moved into a home in Henderson’s Sun City Anthem and knew the existing landscaping left much to be desired. We’ve all seen these homes — a yard full of pebbles and a few shrubs randomly planted, all in the name of water conservation.
So Schnur called Mat Baroudi, owner of An English Gardener Landscaping. Baroudi transformed her front yard with jasmine, rosebushes, a trellis and a bevy of wildflowers. It’s now a vibrant space that has even brought a water bill savings and got the neighbors talking too.
“I met half my neighborhood because of Mat,” Schnur said with a laugh. “One of my neighbors hired him too.”
AN ENGLISH TEACHER
Baroudi has been designing local landscapes for the past eight years but has literally been gardening and landscaping since his youth. He grew up on a farm in England, tending to crops, livestock and wildlife.
After years in marketing and sales for a variety of companies, Baroudi finally decided to strike out on his own in 2006. The idea to go into the landscaping business was stirred when — after purchasing a home in the Silverado Ranch area — he hired landscapers for his backyard.
“A company came in, put in grass and a couple trees. … Once I saw that and what was going on around other places, I said ‘We’ve got to do landscaping because we can be so much better than what’s on offer,’ ” he said.
Baroudi dove into his business selling himself as both an artist and educator. He was an informant of sorts on why a tree in a yard was dying while another was thriving or why roots were uprooting a foundation, and plenty of other topics. He’s also tuned and programmed his share of irrigation systems and timers in the past eight years.
“He is a great teacher. Whenever he came out to work on my yard, I stopped what I was doing and went out there because I knew I would learn so much,” Schnur said.
Greening and conserving
A common approach Baroudi takes to adding color to a landscape is bringing together clusters of different plants into an area, like, for example, to the base of a tree. Here he will add colorful low-growing flowers such as daylilies or other wildflowers such as alyssum.
In many cases, the single irrigation line going to an area can easily water several flowers without needing more lines, he says. Those added touches also bring hummingbirds and butterflies.
“You can bring that beauty and still be cognizant of water issues,” he added.
Baroudi’s home has become what he calls his “test kitchen” and “showroom.” He prefers to meet clients in his small backyard to demonstrate how the outdoor space can be so rich and lively. In his yard there’s tons of colorful plants, a sitting area, tortoise habitat, aboveground pool, fountain and fruit trees, all for a monthly water bill of $30.
The yard took first place at the 2013 SNWA Landscape Design Awards. It was the first year Baroudi had entered the contest. Since then, he has been featured on KNPR, a European gardening channel, and will have his yard filmed by PBS in June for a segment of “This Old House.”
“This is our showroom, our proof,” he said. “We are conserving, but we still have all this green, lush landscaping around us. We don’t have to put desert landscaping necessarily (to conserve). … For me this is an artistry as opposed to a landscaping company that shows up and asks ‘what do you want?’ then puts in a cactus here or there and goes home.”
Baroudi also loves to create a space that invites use. Integrating sitting areas and walkways into shaded areas near plantlife can truly make a useful space for homeowners to entertain friends or relax, Baroudi said.
“To see a backyard or front yard not used and just wasted, that really burns me. That’s part of your property. You should be using it,” he added.
Martin Greenbaum, a Henderson resident, used Baroudi’s company to redesign his front yard. With the front of the home enjoying a good amount of morning and afternoon shade, Baroudi suggested a sitting area made with pavers near the home in addition to adding plenty of green. Greenbaum now finds himself using the space instead of ignoring it as he did in the past.
“He created all these levels. It’s a really natural look and he extended the living area,” he said. “At the end of the day, when the job comes out better than you thought it would, it’s great.”
Baroudi also has spent the past eight years assembling a crew that brings his attention to detail to the job. An admitted perfectionist, the pro is often found working side by side with his team to make sure what is built is exactly as he envisioned.
To help customers better see his artistic view of their property, he is now using fully animated 3-D CAD software that allows the client to better envision the job with the help of video before the first shovel hits the dirt.
Just as Baroudi tests out new ideas and design approaches in his backyard, he’s always on the lookout for new products. He recently signed on with a new fountain provider whose product stands up better to the desert heat, is eyeing an outdoor pizza oven company’s offering, and recently began selling a new 100 percent organic fertilizer product made of fossilized minerals from the ocean floor called Bioyodal.
With Bioyodal, Baroudi’s own fruit trees have already produced up to 10 times what they had in the past and other plants are thriving too.
“Its primary use is for farming and crops, but what we’ve seen locally with plants and trees is amazing,” he said.
Baroudi also hopes to incorporate education into his future, doing seminars and teaching classes on gardening and landscaping to locals. For more information about Baroudi’s company, visit www.englishgardenerlandscaping.com or call 702-496-7326.