Fires-Retardant and Fire-Resistant Plantings
By Cynthia Brian
Normally the sound of weed-whackers disrupts the tranquility of living the soulful country life, but this year, I am grateful to hear their constant buzzing. With a summer of historical dryness in front of us bringing a looming fire danger, cutting the grasses on hillsides, paths, and in backyards is imperative. I’ve been working on my property since early February weeding, cutting, pruning, mulching, repairing, and planting in preparation for a hot, dangerous year. You are encouraged to walk through your landscape and make sure you are also ready for whatever may transpire. We want to keep our community picturesque as well as safe. We all play a part in protecting our precious land and lives.
My articles on creating an Emergency Go-Bag (https://www.lamorindaweekly.com/archive/issue1507/Packing-an-emergency-Go-Bag.html) and Wildfire Protection through Landscaping
(https://www.lamorindaweekly.com/archive/issue1507/Digging-Deep-with-Goddess-Gardener-Cynthia-Brian-Wildfire-protection-through-landscaping.html) elicited numerous emails and comments. The number one request was to supply a list of plants that would be fire-retardant and fire-resistant.
When planning a new garden or adding plants to an existing landscape, it is essential to be reminded that no plant is fire-proof. Everything can and will burn if the temperature is hot enough. Also, even if a plant tag indicates that it is fire-resistant, it must be properly maintained, pruned, irrigated, spaced, and positioned in the correct locations to thrive. Plants that have been infested with pests, are too old, or are stressed will be more flammable. Plants that are not nurtured could create a problem for other vegetation. Inspect your botanicals carefully.
ZONE 1: DEFENSIBLE ZONE
Plants within 30 feet of a structure need to be considered for fire-retardance. This is Zone 1, the defensible space of your garden which will be able to withstand extreme heat and flying embers. Plants need to be watered thoroughly, trees are preferably deciduous, and the leaves of plants will be moist, fleshy, and broad.
Groundcovers for this area include:
Zone 1 Perennials include:
New Zealand Flax
Bird of Paradise
Zone 1 Shrubs include:
Zone 1 Vines include:
Zone 1 Trees include:
ZONE 2: FUEL BREAK
From 31 feet to 70 feet from a structure, and even further up on slopes, is the greenbelt area which is designed to halt the fire. Plants in this area are the most fire-retardant with low fuels and high moisture content. These plantings can withstand neglect, freezes, droughts, and even insect infestations and still be fire-retardant. Ground covers don’t grow over 18 inches. Trees and shrubs have space between them. In general, although succulents and cactus may not survive a fire, they are the best at retarding one.
Zone 2 Groundcovers include:
Santa Barbara Daisy
Zone 2 Perennials include:
Zone 2 Shrubs include:
Zone 2 Vines include:
Lady Banks Rose
Zone 2 Trees include:
California Black Oak
GENERAL FIRE-RESISTANT PLANTS
Although no plant is 100% fire-proof, these plants are less likely to burn. Several are already listed for Zones 1 and 2.
Bulbs (tulips, daffodils, iris, hyacinth, freesia, etc. Cut stalks to the ground when leaves are dry)
Yellow or Purple Ice Plant
Purple Robe Locust
Fruit Trees (varieties of cherry, plum, pear, peach, apricot, pomegranate, fig)
Manzanita (prune without deadwood)
California Bay Laurel
Remember that deciduous plants are less flammable than evergreen. Gray and silver plants have a high mineral and ash content which makes them more fire-resistant. Vegetation with needles or fine, thin leaves is flammable. The more stored moisture a plant has, the more it can withstand a fire. Use less-flammable types of mulch, such as gravel or decorative rock, or a combination of wood bark mulch and decorative rock to dress your garden, retain moisture, and deter weed growth.
To burn, fires need fuel. By removing debris, planting and maintaining a fire-retardant and fire-resistant landscape, cutting down dead trees, thinning dried branches, spacing, pruning, watering, and keeping trees away from roofs, you will dimmish the chance of ignition, lower fire intensity, and reduce the spread of a blaze. Your home will have a better chance of surviving a wildfire.
Best of all, you can still create a gorgeous oasis where you can entertain, relax, and socialize.
Firewise volunteers are available to offer advice in neighborhoods. The Orinda Firewise Council supports and educates the public about wildfire resilience. They are seeking landscapers and nurseries to assist with communicating ways in which homeowners can become more wildfire safe by making their property more fire-resistant. To work together with them to empower and beautify the community, go to https://www.orindafirewisecouncil.org/contact-us
You don’t want fires to crawl fueled by unkempt low-lying vegetation, high grasses, or mounds of leaves. Get out the weed whackers and go to work. Be fire safe and enjoy a wonderful summer.
Happy Gardening. Happy Growing. Congratulations to the graduates and Happy Father’s Day to all the great dads.
Photos and more: https://www.lamorindaweekly.com/archive/issue1508/Digging-Deep-with-Goddess-Gardener-Cynthia-Brian-Fire-retardant-and-fire-resistant-plantings.html
Press Pass: https://blog.voiceamerica.com/2021/06/15/what-plants-are-more-fire-resilient/
Cynthia Brian, The Goddess Gardener, is available for hire to help you prepare for your spring garden. Raised in the vineyards of Napa County, Cynthia is a New York Times best-selling author, actor, radio personality, speaker, media and writing coach as well as the Founder and Executive Director of Be the Star You Are!® 501 c3. Tune into Cynthia’s StarStyle® Radio Broadcast at www.StarStyleRadio.com.
Buy copies of her books, including, Chicken Soup for the Gardener’s Soul, Growing with the Goddess Gardener, and Be the Star You Are! www.cynthiabrian.com/online-store. Receive a FREE inspirational music DVD and special savings.
Hire Cynthia for writing projects, garden consults, and inspirational lectures.