Our future points to a pattern of increased drought in our landscape, which means a prolonged fire season and increasingly more fires. All around the state fire is impacting homeowners, gardeners and our way of life. Consequently, making your home safe is a priority while maintaining its beauty and this time of year is a good idea to contemplate your landscape options.
The first course of action is to create a defensible space around your home as a preventative measure. Defensible space is broken into a few zones for protection. For areas within five feet of the house to slow fire use gravel paths and inorganic materials. There should be no plants within this zone
Continue into the next zone with low growing ground covers and perennials. As you work your way further out from the house add small shrubs and larger trees. It’s also very good idea to space out the shrubs and limb up low hanging tree branches, leaving this space will help slow fire from spreading.
A few good choices for groundcovers are Archtostaphylos uva-ursi (Kinnikinnick) or Rubus calycinoides (Creeping Raspberry). Rubus calycinoides is reliably deer resistant and drought tolerant. This is one hardy plant- deer can literally walk over it and little harm comes to it!
Continuing away from the house there is still plenty of space for beautiful large blooms, like Hydrangea macrophylla bloomstruck (Bigleaf Hydrangeas) and Rhododendrons.
Buddleia (Butterfly Bush- sterile cultivars only) and Ribes sanguineum King Edwards VII (Red Flowering Currant) are also attractive shrubs with lovely blooms. Ribes sanguineum has tubular flowers that hummingbirds and pollinators absolutely love early in the year.
The Cotinus family (Smoke Bush) is an additional group of plants that also work well in this area. In this collection all plants have deep purple rounded leaves in the late summer or fall with unique long flower plumes. There are numerous tree and shrub forms to choose from and all are good choices.
A good looking medium sized tree growing about fifteen by twenty feet is Cercis canadensis (Eastern Redbud). This beautiful tree has heart shaped leaves with pink flowers in the Spring therefore, a pleasant addition to any space. It also has stunning golden fall color.
With our changing climate some plants that previously grew in your area may not adapt as well to the smoke and heat. Oregon State University Extension has a recommended list published that is very helpful. Furthermore, be sure to visit The Oregon Garden in Silverton, which has an excellent display of fire wise planting around a building. Our Corner Store Nursery regularly has many of the plants in their display in stock. In addition to plants Lane Forest Products sells many landscaping products (like gravel for pathways) which could be beneficial to protect your home. Gardening should be a fun endeavor, so don’t feel limited on planting options …just do a little research to have good results.
Written by Karen Smith, Lane Forest Products Plant Specialist