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Choosing your landscape plants to help reduce the risk of bushfires

Evergreen Growers' stunning Queensland Silver Wattle is classed by the Aust. Plants Society as "fire retardant".

This week saw the start of the bushfire season in my area with a number of blazes threatening properties in the Blue Mountains and western Sydney. The quick work of the firies and residents appear to have saved the day however with the fire season appearing to start earlier every year, we thought an article about landscaping to help mitigate the risk of bushfire may be of interest.

If you are starting your garden — or thinking of a garden makeover — and live in a bushfire prone area, it may be advisable to select bushfire proof plants (such as hedging plants) and design your garden to help prevent fire spreading to your home. According to the Victorian Government’s Country Fire Authority, plants when selected and located correctly, can filter embers, absorb radiant heat and break up fuel in the path of a bushfire.

However poor planning and positioning may also contribute to the danger of fire accelerating towards the house. While the Australian experience shows that a perfect storm of conditions will always make containing fires difficult, there are a number of factors to consider:

1. Position your landscape plants and trees safely
Consider how the positioning of garden beds, shrubs, hedging plants and trees will affect the progress of any bushfire. Keep any overhanging trees well away from the house, particularly those which are more likely to shed leaves, bark and branches. By creating a grassy space between flower beds and trees, you may help slow the progress of any encroaching bushfire, enabling you to react.

2. Choose the right plants
If you live in a bushfire-prone area, it is important to do the research and select the right plants for the conditions. Select fire resistant or fire retardant plants that will resist flames. For a comprehensive list of these plants see this list from the Victorian section of the Australian Plants Society.

3. Create a non-flammable space around the house
Use landscape design features such as stone walls or non-combustible fences to help halt the progress of a fire. By clearing a space around the home, you make a space that can be defended against encroaching flames. Well cut grassy areas around the home will help.

4. Maintaining the garden
Whatever the garden you decide to plant you will need to keep branches, leaves and other plant debris clear and well away from the house. This may involve investing in a good rake! Should you need to stack wood for any reason, make sure it is covered and away from the house. Keep the debris clear as this may form a fuel path for a bushfire that could lead to the house and other dwellings.

Eucalyptus regrowth after a bushfire.

For more information about fire proofing your home and property using various plants such as hedging plants and fire retardant vegetation please contact your local fire brigade or fire authority. We suggest you start by reading this document for the Victorian Country Fire Authority.

Please don’t hesitate to share your thoughts about mitigating fire risk with plants either here or over at our Facebook Page.

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