DESIGNING A FIRE-RESISTANT LANDSCAPE
In order to reduce the risk of wildfires destroying your property, design a fire resistant landscape. If nothing else, creating a landscape with wildfires in mind may give you and your family some extra time to escape safely from a fast-moving fire. Yes, neighborhood covenants or housing authority rules can be an issue.
However, even if you live in an apartment building with shared landscaping, you can take action to protect your home from passing fires.
The first thing to consider is plant material. Always pick plants and other forms of vegetation with this question in mind: “Will they help to contain a fire or will they fuel it?” Talk to a professional at a garden center for ideas and suggestions about local plants that resist fire. You may also find tips online to go with these suggestions:
• Annuals: Most annuals are suitable if you take care of them properly and water them appropriately. If you let them get dried out and overgrown, they are a fire problem and should be replaced with less high-maintenance plants.
• Groundcover: You can use carpet bugleweed, creeping phlox, hens and chicks, rock cress, snow-in-summer, or wild strawberry.
• Perennials: Consider chives, columbine, daylily, evening primrose, hosta, sedges, trumpet vine and/or yarrow.
• Shrubs: Opt for creeping holly, mock orange, Oregon boxwood, Oregon grape, pacific rhododendron, serviceberry and sumac (but be mindful of sumac allergies if anyone in your family is sensitive). When it comes to trees, choose hardwoods whenever possible. Evergreens burn much more quickly than hardwood. The only exceptions to this rule are Ponderosa pine and Western larch.
Their thick bark and the high moisture content of their leaves makes them more fire-resistant than other conifers. In general, however, pick oak trees over balsam or pine. Besides plants and other vegetation, you have to look at your choice of decor. In many drought prone regions, landscapers use rough uncolored or dyed tree bark as a mulch to help the plants retain moisture. Bark is aesthetically pleasing.
Unfortunately, it is also highly flammable. Instead of bark, you might want to consider rocks, pebbles or stone.
They come in a variety of colors. You can also add a water-recycling water feature such as a fountain or small pond to increase the fire fighting power of your landscaping. If you select the elements and combine them correctly, the overall look will be both practical and striking.