Living Ind

Garden Party

by Mary Tutwiler

A Lafayette backyard paradise briefly opens to the public to benefit Family Promise of Acadiana.

It isn’t easy to find Sarah Schoeffler’s garden. Tucked back behind a screen of trees facing Simcoe, the family house and grounds are sheltered from the gaze of passers-by for 51 weekends out of the year. But once every spring, she opens up her acres of blooming flowers to the public to benefit those less fortunate and to bring joy to those who value a green thought in a green shade.

The Schoeffler house sits on several acres facing Bayou Vermilion. Over the course of 11 years, Sarah has slowly transformed the wooded lot into a variety of gardenscapes. Take her amaryllis garden. She began with a Christmas-red flowering bulb. Now the vast collection runs the gamut from snow white to the beautiful blushing Apple Blossom variety. Tucked into that mix of tall sturdy lilies are clusters of nodding terrestrial orchids in shades of lavender, yellow and orange as well as waving fronds of autumn fern and delicate Japanese painted fern. It’s a delightful mix of color, shape, light and texture — an impressionist painting that moves and breathes, and that visitors can smell as the flowers release their perfume in the evening.

“Nothing was really planned,” Shoeffler says, gazing fondly at stands of iris in full pink, purple, yellow and blue bloom. “It’s been an evolution over time.” The broken trunks of trees that fell during Hurricane Lili, opening up a shaft of sunlight in what once was deep shade, now form a trellis for climbing Lady Banks roses. At their feet bloom wildflowers like Joe-Pye Weed and Black-Eyed Susan. An old claw-foot bathtub provides a water feature. Here a herb garden, there a row of tomatoes and strawberries; everywhere you look is a surprise like citrus trees, native star anise, old-fashioned roses or the newest hybrid daylily. Schoeffler has planted something that will bloom every day of the year.

Her deep faith in good works has allied her with a charitable organization called Family Promise of Acadiana. The nonprofit works with area churches to temporarily house and help find employment and permanent housing for homeless family groups, filling a need for families who do not want to be split up into separate-sex shelters. Admission fees for the weekend of Schoeffler’s garden events will benefit Family Promise.

The gardens of Sarah Schoeffler are located at 3502 E. Simcoe (near Oakbourne Country Club). Weekend events begin Friday, April 11, from 6-8 p.m. with Wine and Cheese Under the Stars; admission is $100 per person or $150 per couple, and reservations are required. The fee includes entry to all weekend events. On Saturday, April 12, from 9 a.m.-5 p.m., experience Coffee and Tea on the Veranda, Music in the Gazebo (featuring Les Frères Michot, the Figs and more) and Bayou Boat Rides. Admission to Saturday-only events is $20 a person. On Sunday, April 13, admission to A Quiet Stroll through the Garden from 2 p.m.-6 p.m. is $15. For more information call 233-3447 or visit

(photo by Terri Fensel)