A Firewise Slope Of Native California Plants

Rockrose:
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I had the very good luck to be able to visit a garden filled with trees and shrubs native to the immediate area.  The garden was intended to be as firewise as possible, and work to achieve this goal is ongoing. 

Most of the garden is a steep slope, and wildfires travels up slopes. 

The main trees on the slope are native oaks:  scrub, Engelmanii, and Kelloggii.  There is also a large Prunus illicifolia, which maintains a deep green color despite a lack of water.  The main shrubs on the slope are a variety of Ceonothus and Manzanita (Arctostaphylos).

A thriving Ceonothus:
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Manzanita are especially beautiful planted so as to be backlit by the sun.  The contrast between the cool blue-green foliage and the deep burgundy bark makes for a lovely if restrained effect.  A native California plant garden is a subtle garden.
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There is a patch of Mantijia Poppy (Romneya coulteri), cut back for the summer dormant season, along with Salvias and Rockrose. 
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Some irrigation is performed, especially to establish new plants.  Periodic gopher attacks cause the occasional plant death. 
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Space is allowed between plants, and the areas under the oaks are kept clear.  The more dense the vegetation, the worse the fire.  A careful balance must be struck between vegetation that holds the slope in place and the need for fire safety.
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Succulent Aloes at the top of the slope will help to create a defensible barrier around the home.  Cereus and Opuntia are effortless plants here:  lay a piece on the ground, get new plants...
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There is a lawn.  This lawn is regularly used as a play area by children, and it also increases the defensible space around the home.  Lawn has its place and use, even in California, and this is an example of sensible use.  The lawn is watered just enough to keep it alive.
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Succulents add architectural interest and are a fine contrast with the shrubby native plants. 
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Though not native, the Echium has proven valuable for erosion control.  Sometimes a pragmatic approach is wise.  Native birds and bees are attracted to the Echium, so they sustain native life in that respect. 
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River stones from the Azusa area were collected (legally, by permit) and used as edging and texture.  This Echeveria is thriving in a site very like its native conditions. 
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It was a wonderful visit.  I was very lucky to be offered an extra and totally gorgeous Echeveria.  
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Wow!  I was thrilled to have it.  Is there a better thing to do than visit gardens?  I think not.
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Comments

  1. I was under the impression that manzanitas were fire hazards. My in-laws owned a home at Tahoe and the forestry service went around to all non-private land tearing out and burning them and citing home owners who had not done similar. I do know they burn very hot.

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