(photo credit: KKL-JNF)
The 50-acre Gilat Nursery was the ideal site for the conference, as it serves as a testing ground for trees and shrubs from all over the world in order to determine which species are suitable for growing in Israel. Besides trees and shrubs for forests, Gilat Nursery also grows plants for the parks and gardens of local schools, towns and villages, and army bases.
The day, which was co-sponsored with the Israel Ministry of Agriculture, began with a visit to the Kibbutz Nir Oz botanical gardens. After registration, the group proceeded to the David Nahamias KKL-JNF Center at the Gilat Nursery, where they heard a number of lectures on the subject, along with a lively panel discussion with the avid participation of the audience. According to Avigail Lerner, who moderated the discussion, "gardeners and landscape architects are always looking for special plants with ornamental flowers or leaves to provide shade, aesthetical enjoyment, land cover and more. They want plants that don't need a lot of irrigation or rich land, and are resilient to high radiation and strong winds."
The first lecture, which focused on the topic of native and foreign species of plants in Israeli gardens, was presented by Professor Tal Alon Moses of the Landscape Architecture Department at the Techinon in Haifa. Throughout the country, local species mentioned in the Bible thrive next to plants from all over the world that were acclimated in Israel over time. The integration of these various plants in local gardens is the result of complex processes of systematic planning alongside private and often chance initiatives by gardeners. Two trends can be identified – basing Israel gardens on biblical and local flora, as opposed to an effort to green the country by importing evergreen, broadleaf trees that also provide shade. In recent years, sustainability and environmental considerations have also played a greater and greater role in determining what plants to grow where and when.