The summer fire season has arrived.
Disaster management fire experts suggest that the drought during the summer of 2017/2018 kept fires in the Western Cape at a conservative figure. Good rains this year have increased the biomass in the region and more intense fires are predicted.
So far the predictions are regretfully on target. Close to 90 000 hectares was destroyed in the 2018 George-Outeniqua fire (29 -31 October, 2018).
It is estimated that the George-Outeniqua fire destroyed an area four times the size of the 2017 Knysna fires (7-10 June, 2017) - which saw 22 000 hectares razed.
“Professional landscapers spend their life working in nature and are sensitised to the dangers that fire pose to life, property and infrastructure”, says SALI National Chair, Norah de Wet.
Landscaping an area to be firewise requires planting in zones and is known as firescaping. “Knowing which plants to use in three firescaped zones on a property will go a long way to reducing damage in the face of a runaway wildfire”, says de Wet.
In the Knysna fires, for example, walls covered in star jasmine (Trachelospermum jasminoides) and pavements planted up with aloes were destroyed by the intense flames and heat.
However, they protected the homes and perimeter walls against which they were planted by being in the path of the fire and absorbing the impact of the fire.
Three firescaping zones
Landscape a defensible space against wild fires with three zones of firewise plants.
What plants should you choose to plant in these three zones of firescaping in your garden. Aim now to save lives and infrastructure this summer with firewise planting.
Plants for firescaping in three zones
Consider these plants for firewise landscaping in three zones.
1. Perimeter zone
This is a buffer zone area on the boundary of your propert which should be planted up with low growing, fleshy-leaved ground covers, hedging plants and isolated forest trees or large succulent aloes that are fire-resistant and resprout when damaged by fire.
- Low growing ground covers with fleshly leaves that have a high resistance to fire: Vygies, (Lampranthus, Malephora, Drosanthemum, Delosperma and Carpobrotus), Gazania, Arctotis, Cliffortia ferruginea, Aloe brevifolia and other suitable ground-covering aloes.
- Bulbs that resprout: Tulbaghia violacea, agapanthus, watsonia.
- Screening or hedging plant that resprout or do not burn easily: Krantz aloe (Aloe arborescens), other suitable aloes, dune crowberry (Searsia crenata syn. Rhus crenata), Searsia glauca, glossy currant (Searsia lucida), Tarchonanthus camphorates, Pterocelastrus tricuspidatus, Osteospermum moniliferum, milkwood (Sideroxylon inerme).
- Forest trees that do not burn easily: Cape holly (Ilex mitis), Cape beech (Rapanea melanophloeos), wild almond (Brabejum stellatifolium), rooiels or butterspoon tree (Cunonia capensis), including indigenous cherry (Maurocenia frangularia), and rock elder (Canthium mundianum), tree fuchsia (Halleria lucida).
2. Garden zone
Within the garden, design 'island beds' surrounded by lawn, paving or gravel.
Choose fire-resistant trees and shrubs, but make sure that they do not touch each other or create a ladder effect that can deliver a fire to your home. Interplant the islands with low growing ground covers.
- Resprouters such as Leucadendron salignum, Chondropetalum tectorum, Erica spp., Maytenus oleoides, Brachylaena discolour, indigenous Salvia spp. (Salvia africana caerulea, Salvia africana-lutea), Pelargonium cucullatum, king protea (Protea cynaroides), Felicia echinata, wild olive (Olea europeana subsp. Africana), wild peach (Kiggelaria africana), glossy currant (Searsia syn. Rhus lucida).
- Corky bark: Leucospermum cococarpodendron, Protea nitida, Mimetes cucullatus, Aloe plicatus.
- Bulbs that resprout: Agapanthus, watsonia, Haemanthus coccineus, Cyrtanthus ventricosus, Kniphofia praecox.
3. Patio zone
Create a 3m wide zone of hard landscaping, lawn or low growing fire-resistant plantings around the house. This patio zone is a great place for shade loving, flowering plants.
- For sun: Cliffortia ferruginea, Otholobium decumbens, Dymondia margaretae, Gazania spp., Helichrysum argyrophyllum, Hermannia saccifera, Cotula lineariloba, Agathosma ovata ‘Kluitjies kraal’ and vygies.
- For shade: Plectranthus verticillatus, P. neochilus (which can also grow in the sun), and P. ciliatus ‘Drege’.
Shrubs: Agathosma serpyllacea, Phylica ericoides, Felicia spp., Natal plum (Carissa macrocarpa & cvs.), Cotyledon orbiculata, Scabiosa spp., and geelblombos (Athanasia dentata).
Firewise plants for landscaping
Include these 40 firewise plants in any fire-prone landscapes in the Western Cape this summer.
- Trees: Cape ash (Ekebergia capensis), tree fuchsia (Halleria lucida), wild peach (Kiggelaria africana), Cape holly (Ilex mitis), forest elder (Nuxia floribunda), wild olive (Olea europeana subsp. africana), Southern magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora), all oaks, (Quercus spp.), milkwood (Sideroxylon inerme), all flowering plums, peaches, crabapples and cherries.
- Shrubs: Buchu (Agathosma spp.), Marguerite daisy (Argyranthemum spp. & cvs.), camellias, Natal plum (Carissa macrocarpa & cvs.), tick berry (Chrysanthemoides monilifera), coprosma (Coprosma repens & cvs.), Cordyline australis & cvs., Erica spp., felicia, Gardenia augusta & cvs., Hibiscus rosa-sinensis & cvs., hydrangeas, Leucadendron spp., roses, Protea spp., dune crowberry (Searsia crenata syn. Rhus crenata), crane flower (Strelitzia reginae), Cape honeysuckle (Tecoma capensis), all succulents.
- Ground covers: Ground covering succulents and vygies, agapanthus, artotis, rockrose (Cistus spp.), Dymondia margaretae, Gazania spp., Helichrysum spp., statice (Limonium perezii), Plectranthus spp., scabiosa, star jasmine (Trachelospermum jasminoides), wild garlic, (Tulbaghia spp.)
FIRESCAPING IN THE FYNBOS
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