Wednesday, November 5, 2008

When Brown is Green

On November 1, a new law went into effect in Israel: it is forbidden to water plants or lawns, even via the water conserving method of drip irrigation.

In mid-October, I paid my first visit to our local nursery in over a year. Previously, I had been such a regular customer that all the employees knew my name, knew my family, and two of them even took to losing (and gaining) weight with me. But last year was a shmitta year in Israel, the first that I was experiencing as a garden-owner, and I observed it carefully. No new plants, no fertilizing, and we pruned not for esthetics, but only when absolutely necessary for the survival of the plant.

As the end of the year approached, I began to look forward to my trip to the nursery. Then I heard about the new law.

While I knew how desperately necessary the law was- the level of the Kinneret, the main supplier of water for our country, has been shrinking at a frightening level in recent years- I felt more than a twinge of disappointment as I realized that I was facing a winter without the colorful flowers that bring brightness to a gloomy day. There would be no cute pansies greeting me with a morning smile, the snapdragons would be sparse, and the geraniums would only produce a few flowers instead of their usual abundance of blooms.

I circled the nursery, determined to purchase only those plants that could flourish with a minimum of water. Into my wagon went cacti and succulents. I pictured plants I already had growing in my garden, and calculated how many times I could divide them to fill containers that would otherwise be left empty.

Toward the back of the nursery is an area that is always set aside for flowering annuals. I approached it with a nostalgic smile on my face- I started gardening several years ago when my mother came to live with us and she fondly mentioned the pansies she remembered from her childhood. The pansies I planted that year became an important aide in my Mom’s care, as the promise of seeing them was often the only way we could coax her outside.

I walked around that back area wistfully, picking up a plant or two, marveling at new color combinations that had been developed since my last visit. In the end, the pull of the pansies was too strong for me to resist, and although I knew any plants I purchased would be doomed to a short life, I placed several in my wagon and headed for the cashier.

The first few days after I planted were rainy, and the the pansies took root. Bright patches of blue, yellow, and orange began to sprout in the garden. Multi-colored faces winked at me when I opened my door.

The rain was short-lived, however. We’re several days into a dry spell, and the pansies are beginning to wilt.

I’m tempted to go out and water them. What harm could there be in a little water? But I know I’m kidding myself, know that the guilt I would feel from watering the pansies would diminish any pleasure their happy faces would bring me.

So I leave them to muster on as best they can, hoping they survive until we are blessed with more rain. I’ll take my pleasure from the cacti I’ve planted and divided, and gain satisfaction from knowing that as my pansies turn brown, I’m being environmentally responsible.

1 comment:

Ruth said...

This article appeared in today's newspaper:

"Water Rationing Likely by Spring"