“Water Savvy”

water savvy vitex with purple flowers

“Water savvy” is my favorite new word from Adam Schwerner, heard at last month’s Garden Writers Association Annual Symposium….for aren’t we all a little dreary with talk of drought tolerance?

You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you; I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you, in a dry and parched land where there is no water.
Psalm 63:1 NIV

With water savvy plants, impressions of desperate “dry and parched” gasps for the few remaining drops of moisture are cast aside by a description inspiring confidence and grace. This admitted euphemism is more than a spin on the on-going quest for garden plants that don’t need much water: It is a charge to emerge from garden watering restrictions with flair and elegance, meeting sustainability in stride, choosing plants with inherent know-how in adapting to a full range of circumstances.

I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty.
Philippians 4:11-12 NIV

Water Savvy Suggestion

My top suggestion for a water savvy plant: Vitex angus-castus, known commonly as Chaste Tree, Lavender Tree, Monk’s Pepper, Abraham’s Bush, or simply as Vitex. I was first drawn to this small tree or large shrub as a Texas gardener looking for lush foliage that would stand up to our fully-sunny summers. Fellow Garden Writer William C. Welch explains the plant’s excellent choice for today’s garden, zones 6-9.

vitex plants as a privacy screenWe planted Vitex next to our unshaded fence line for added privacy, not realizing the drainage from our yard made this a sometimes swamp-like location. However, the Vitex trees have thrived. The plants are adept at handling both water extremes, “plenty and want”, a true display of savvy.

Biblical Connection

Imagine my delight! This fully practical plant choice turned out to have a Biblical connection. Vitex trees are native to the holy land, planted at Neot Kedumim, the Biblical landscape reserve in Israel. Often found along watercourses in the Mediterranean region, some scholars see Vitex as an acceptable option to the willow branches gathered to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles.

And ye shall take you on the first day the boughs of goodly trees, branches of palm trees, and the boughs of thick trees, and willows of the brook; and ye shall rejoice before the Lord your God seven days.
Leviticus 23:40 KJV

Go forth unto the mount, and fetch olive branches, and pine branches, and myrtle branches, and palm branches, and branches of thick trees, to make booths, as it is written.
Nehemiah 8:15 KJV

Since Hebrew Scriptures are not absolute in identifying the plant species for this celebration (besides date palm), much discussion has prevailed throughout Jewish tradition in deciding which plants to include in celebrating and why.

Chaste tree forest Dallas Arboretum

Mature Chaste or Vitex Trees shelter a thicketed path at the Dallas Arboretum, located near the water’s edge of White Rock Lake

“Save us, we beseech Thee!”*

In general, “willows of the brook—” whether willow, poplar, or vitex—represent a plant associated with water, reminding God’s people of their own unending dependence on water. “Save us!” is the constant plea lifted up throughout the festival week; the request is not a dreary moan, anguishing over the need to be saved, but a rejoicing cry made with confidence in God who is gracious to save. It is a savvy, practical petition, embracing the reality of circumstance. The human need for refreshment, represented in an iconic water plant, is continually before the LORD.

“Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.”
John 7:37-38 NIV

Enjoy Vitex in your garden, both in the beauty it brings each day and in the timeless celebration it stands beside; plant them in connection to Gods’ saving grace.

He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace.
2 Timothy 1:9 NIV

Now God has us where he wants us, with all the time in this world and the next to shower grace and kindness upon us in Christ Jesus. Saving is all his idea, and all his work. All we do is trust him enough to let him do it.
Ephesians 2:7-8 The Message

vitex flowers detail

* taken from “Hoshanot for the Sabbath of Sukkot,” Sabbath and Festival Prayer Book (The Rabbinical Assembly of America and The United Synagogues of America, 1946), pages 189-206



Photo Credits: ©2015 Shelley S. Cramm

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2 Responses to “Water Savvy”

  1. Charlotte macfee October 16, 2015 at 8:29 am #

    What a wonderfully positive term! Conjures up images of very smart plants. When we tap into their needs instead of ours, we get much better results. Always fun to see how God has provided for us in all conditions.

  2. Lydia Plunk October 19, 2015 at 12:48 pm #

    Thank you for the wise words. May the good Lord bless us with enough clouds wringing water from on high, not just for the sake of our gardens, but also to alleviate the worries of those in the clutches of those desirous to encourage the wringing of hands.

    Hands are better used to pray and put to action to open great possibilities.

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