How to protect your home with firewise landscaping
Jim Duthie goes to the Idaho Firewise Garden to learn how to have beautiful scenery while protecting his home from the risk of a fire.
BOISE, Idaho – As Idaho’s population continues to grow, people are moving to what was once considered Idaho’s wilderness. And that means a greater risk of property damage and destruction in the event of wildfire.
In our ongoing series on Forest Fire Awareness in Idaho, we’re introduced to the idea of fire-wise landscaping in a demonstration garden here in Boise, where you can learn how to create beautiful scenery while protecting your home from the threat of fire .
Idaho is no stranger to forest fires. Tens of thousands of acres go up in smoke every year. But Idaho’s wildfires aren’t just limited to the forests and rangelands.
Over the past two decades, devastating and even deadly forest fires have risen in populated areas of Treasure Valley. And as the population of Idaho continues to grow, we are moving ever closer to the intersection between the city and the wilderness, where fire is a constant risk.
This is why it is so important to know about fire-wide landscaping.
“So Firewise landscaping is a concept for the landscape to protect your home from wildfire,” said Brett van Paepeghem.
Brett van Paepeghem works with Idaho Firewise, a nonprofit that promotes forest fire education.
He also manages the fire-wide demonstration garden adjacent to the Idaho Botanical Gardens and Northeast Boise Old Prison, where you can get ideas for landscaping with beautiful but less flammable plants.
It’s not just about cacti and yucca …
“Using and / or avoiding certain plants and how they are arranged is very important,” said van Paepeghem Dort. We don’t just want to fill the entire landscape with plants. “
The idea is to provide a defensible space around your home so that an approaching wildfire has less fuel to burn.
The fire wine garden is divided into three zones, each a specific distance from your home, showing examples of plants that thrive in Idaho while being more refractory.
Zone 1, within 30 feet of the building, includes hard surfaces such as stone and gravel paths, as well as spotty low plants that would be less likely to burn or that would burn very deeply on the ground.
Like drought tolerant succulents in a myriad of colors and textures, and pretty blooms like the pink ice plant and this little beauty known as pussytoes, whose blooms resemble the soft feet of kittens.
Ivory queen bulbs will soon bloom and open up into an interesting ball of flowers.
And purple soap herb, which contains saponins, a substance that makes the plant fire resistant and is made from the soap.
Zone 2, 30 to 100 feet from the building, includes grasses and small shrubs, as well as ground cover.
There are native Idaho plants like the red penstemon with crackers and sulfur buckwheat with its bright yellow flowers. Both plants attract pollinators to your landscape.
And purple coneflower, or echinacea, a drought tolerant perennial that will bloom all summer.
Finally, Zone 3 extends for more than 100 feet and includes existing vegetation such as larger shrubs and trees. However, it focuses on keeping conifers and other plants that contain high levels of combustible oils and resins at a distance.
A good choice here is the common lilac, with its wonderfully fragrant flowers and thick green leaves that burn more slowly.
The desert willow produces beautiful pink trumpet-shaped flowers.
Then, of course, the mock orange, commonly known as Syringa, Idaho’s state flower, with its abundance of white flowers that bloom throughout Idaho hinterland.
A dozen different types of lawn grass are also on display, many of which use less water than ordinary lawn grass.
“It’s not just about forest fires. It’s about water conservation, “said van Paepeghem.” A very important piece of this demonstration garden is that everything we have selected here is extremely xerical or arid. “
With the hottest, driest months of the year just around the corner and the drought conditions creating an increasing risk of fire for us, understanding the concepts of fire-wise landscaping is more important than ever.
The Idaho Firewise Garden is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. with your paid entry to the Idaho Botanical Garden. The firewise garden also offers private tours by appointment for individuals and groups and is a perfect resource for planning and designing your firewise house landscape.
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