Gardening: Part of the Natural Order of Things
It’s one of those spring days when the wind is cold, the sky is streaked with non-rain-producing clouds, and there is a deep silence on the mountain. I spent the morning digging holes and filling them with plant starts—three blue marguerites, a bronze fennel, a red coreopsis, a Mexican heather and two kinds of lavender. This is by way of thumbing my nose at California’s ongoing, three year long drought. It’s Spring, for goodness sake! Bees gather pollen in the Spring, animals and birds mate, and gardeners garden. It’s the natural order of things.
Water–Our Most Precious Resource
Nevertheless, my husband and I are ever mindful of the need to conserve water. We save the dish water to flush the toilet, and the cold water that comes in advance of the hot, to water the houseplants and feed the fountains. Anything extra goes into a 55-gallon trash can to be used in the gardens. We’ve been doing this for two years now, and haven’t once exceeded the utility district’s base rate. Of course, my car looks like it time traveled from the Dust Bowl, the deck and stairs, although swept, would love a good hosing down, and the outlying areas of the yard are simply derelict.
California’s water crisis makes me realize how privileged and entitled we Californians are. We’ve turned the Southern California desert into a garden complete with thousands of swimming pools. We grow a multitude of both staple and exotic crops in our fertile valleys. We ski in the winter and go boating in the summer, and sometime both sports are available at the same time. Water is so much a part of our lifestyle that we have come to take it for granted—but no longer!
Gardening in a Drought Year
I’ve gone out several times now, to check on my new plantings. It’s a perfect transplanting day because it’s cool and the soil is still moist from the small snow we had last week. But sooner than I would like, the days will turn hot, the soil will turn to stone and the necessity will arise to water the gardens or watch them die. Before that happens, I want to celebrate the evanescence of spring and its flowers.
First come the manzanitas, wild shrubs that dangle shell pink bells in the wind and fill the entire mountain with honeyed sweetness. Next come the crocuses, pushing up even through snow—when there is snow. And then the yellow banksia rose, that takes up a full eighth of my courtyard garden. Followed shortly by a nameless pink rose that has clambered over the courtyard gate, its blooms visible more from the second story of the house than from the first. About the same time, the freesias bloom, with their intoxicating sweetness. And before the freesias are done, the clematis that crawls all over the front of the house asserts its ephemeral pink blossoms onto the breezes.
And so it goes. Next it will be the lavender, that is already setting buds on long, slender stalks. I guess no one told the plants that it’s a drought year and they should conserve water by withholding their glory. Every woman I know is out in the garden these days, weeding, planting, and just wandering, gazing at what the plant’s have wrought. Drought there may be, but hope springs eternal, and apparently, spring’s bounty and the gardener’s passion do, too.