ROSEMEAD ( — Nearly every day, Joe Fernandes takes a pail of water to where his wife, Rosie, is buried.

He says it’s his way of honoring his wife, whose grave is a garden, which Fernandes says he has cared for in the year since she died of cancer.

But it’s also a startling oasis at Savannah Memorial Park Cemetery in Rosemead, one of the oldest cemeteries in California.

“Why should her grave look so fantastically exorbitant and lovely while the rest are not?” Fernandes said.

Dirt, weeds and a pile of mulch surround most of the historic 5 ½-acre site, at which some of the state’s earliest pioneers are buried.

It’s a drastic change from just a year ago when the cemetery had grass.

The association that oversees Savannah Memorial says it decided to severely cut back on water because of the drought and mandatory restrictions.

The nonprofit says it spent roughly $16,000 a year to water the cemetery, which is now the first in the state to replace grass with drought-tolerant plants.

“We’re all unhappy with it, but we also know it’s a necessary evil,” said Beverly Morten of the El Monte Cemetery Association.

Regardless of any changes, Fernandes says he will continue to water the flowers on Rosie’s grave and hopes the rest of the 3,000 plots will eventually look as beautiful.

Cemetery officials say they expect to new landscaping will cut down their water usage by 60 percent and hope to have it completed by next year.