• Firewise Landscaping in the Sierra Foothills

    by  • October 23, 2010 • landscaping, Sierra Foothills • 6 Comments

    When landscaping in a fire risk area, like the Central Sierra foothills of California, you normally have to keep a hundred foot fire safe barrier around your home.   There is quite a bit of research done concerning plants that ignite slower and burn slower.  

    First, protect your property by grooming the branches and brush 10 feet up and ten feet around your trees.  Keep enough space between ‘islands’ of shrubs in the garden so as not to allow fire to spread from  one to another. Another important thing recommended by Las Pilitas Nursery, that you can do is water your landscape every week during the summer, just enough to keep moisture in. Also, thin out  flammable bushes with dead branches and remove the dried weeds.  Native leaf litter is OK, if not infested with weeds, and around the house it’s best to use concrete patios and gravel, instead of bark paths. Metal outdoor furniture, instead of wood would be wise.

    Then you think about planting. these are some of my favorites native or Mediterranean trees and shrubs, groundcovers and perennials listed as low fire combustibility, as documented by sources below:

    Western Redbud Cercis occidentalis
    Toyon Heteromeles arbutifolia
    Manzanita Arctostaphylos uva-ursi ‘Wood’s Compact’
    Creeping Sage Salvia sonomensis ‘Bee’s Bliss’
    California fuchsia Epilobium californica (syn. Zauschneria)
    Stonecrop Sedum, any
    Wild Lilac Ceanothus griseus var. horizontalis ‘Carmel creeper’
    Manzanita ‘Howard McMinn’ Arctostaphylos
    Coffeeberry Rhamnus californica
    Monkey-flower Mimulus aurantiacus
    White Yarrow Achillea millefolium
    Coral bells Heuchera maxima
    Blue-eyed grass Sisyrinchium bellum
    California Poppy Eschscholzia californica
    Farewell to Spring Clarkia amoena

     A good source for these plants in the Oakhurst-North Fork area in the Intermountain Nursery in Prather, CA.


    Sue Langley, a passionate gardener and photographer lives and gardens with her husband and Corgi, Maggie on 7 acres just south of Yosemite, Zone 7 at 3000 feet. She also manages the Flea Market Gardening Facebook page and website.

    6 Responses to Firewise Landscaping in the Sierra Foothills

    1. October 23, 2010 at 6:43 pm

      What gorgeous pictures! And it’s interesting that some of these plants look very different in your yard than in mine. My coffeeberry is much leggier than yours, probably due to receiving a bit more shade than it would prefer. And my ‘Heidi’ yarrow is inexplicably pinker (less orange) than yours.

      Are you sure that’s a Western redbud in your photograph? The leaf shape, with the pointed tip, looks more typical of Eastern redbuds to me.

    2. October 23, 2010 at 9:46 pm

      Hi Gayle,
      No! I’m not sure! Apparently the redbud was mislabeled by the nursery, so you are absolutely right! Just looked up in my notes and checked online. I hadn’t know the difference in leaf shape, and that’s an easy way to tell them apart. All over the hills are wild western redbud and here I have the Eastern! 🙂 Thanks for straightening me out.

      And I remember that the yarrow was purchased on sale at our nearest native and Mediterranean nursery, Intermountain, and they weren’t all labeled. I looked at their current availability list and though it’s still a guess, it looks more like their ‘Fireland’ or ‘Feuerland’. http://www.intermountainnursery.com/new_page_2.htm

      It’s nice to know that we have some of the same plants…btw, my coffeeberry has been nibbled by the deer a bit.

      Note: Nov 2010- I changed the photo now showing a Western Redbud.

    3. October 24, 2010 at 1:48 pm

      Water weekly in summer?? That is a LOT of water.

      We lived in Camps Bay on the slopes of Table Mountain. Not just with the risk of mountain fires, but many fires over decades. Since we moved to Porterville there has been a fire on the mountain. I have a few blog posts about fire. We share your Mediterranean climate here. With a huge added problem of invasive alien Port Jackson wattle and pine trees.

    4. October 24, 2010 at 2:53 pm

      Thanks for your comments! Do you have any rain in summer and how much do you water to keep up the landscape?
      I think we share the same summer heat; we get 100 degree heat for a few weeks in July-August. My drip system waters 1 hour twice a week during the hottest weeks, then I hand water, as needed the rest of the time. That gets a bit tedious for me during the last few hot weeks of summer, so thank goodness the fire season is over for this year! A fire burned through our place in 2001, but before we had a house here.

      What Las Pilitas Native Plant Nursery is saying is that you could keep your landscape around your home, hydrated with overhead watering during those periods to prevent fire. Here is my source. http://www.laspilitas.com/fire.htm

      I’ll have to look up Port Jackson wattle. We have an awful one, Tree of Heaven here…nice name…invasive!
      We have a Porterville close by us, which is where I thought you were at first 😀 I’d love to snap my fingers and appear in your garden for a tour.

    5. October 25, 2010 at 4:45 am

      Summer is frighteningly hot and dry here. Even this morning, after a fire (how do I say this, in the living-room, in a cast iron stove) last night, we were too hot sitting in the morning sun in the rose garden. We hand water with grey water. I do the roses, he does the ones that say – I’m thirsty!
      And obviously when the mountain fire was blazing, we had to water with all the hoses in defense.

    6. December 14, 2016 at 2:05 pm

      Thank you for this list of low combustion plants! I’ve been looking for more information to pass along to my clients, especially when I recommend to them to consider fire-conscious plantings and hardscape into their landscape design.

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