Landscaping to limit fire risk

It’s hot and dry outside, and we’re in the middle of a persistent drought. With these wildfire-perfect conditions, it’s the right time to think about how landscaping can help protect your home.

A great choice for fire protection is hardscape, particularly when it’s close to the house. Concrete walls, gravel pathways and stone or brick patios can serve as fire-safe zones. They can also beautify your home and create outdoor “rooms” for relaxing or entertaining.

Fire-resistant plants can also help. Plants that are lower in sap or resin tend to burn less easily (although there are no “fire-proof” plants). Here are a few to consider:
Shrubs – California redbud, rockroses, honeysuckle, cotoneaster, manzanita, ceanothus and hedging roses are good selections.
Plants for beds and containers – Aloe, agave, senecio and other succulents; rosemary and other herbs; monkeyflower, penstemon, salvias, yarrow, lavender and California fuschia all look great and are also drought-tolerant.
Groundcovers – Succulents and wild strawberry are on the approved plant lists of some California fire departments.
Trees – Hardwoods, such as oaks or maple, are less flammable than conifers. Other good options include natives such as California sycamore and toyon. Whatever trees you have, keep a space between them, and trim them back from wooden structures, roofs and chimneys.

For more information, check out the CalFire website. We’d be happy to help if you are interested in fire-resistant landscaping ideas specific to your home.

Garden Gab
Repelling those summer pests—with plants!

Ahhh, summer: Relaxing with cool drinks on the patio along with….mosquitoes. Did you know that some plants are naturally mosquito-repellent? Apparently, some plants with strong herbal fragrances throw off mosquitoes’ sense of smell. You can help protect yourself by planting them here and there throughout the garden, or just in those outdoor spaces where you play, sit, grill, or gather with friends.

Likewise, a few plants are repellent to wasps. Some people like to attract parasitic wasps to the landscape, as they eat harmful insects such as whiteflies, certain moths and fly larvae. But if you don’t want wasps or mosquitoes visiting you in your garden, check out the lists below for some attractive yet hard-working plants for summertime outdoors.

Anti-mosquito – Basil, catmint, citronella grass, lantana, lavender, lemon geranium, lemon balm, marigold and rosemary. For added enjoyment, crush a little lemon balm or lavender and rub it into your skin. It will smell great on you, but not to the mosquitoes.

Anti-wasp – Artemisia, mint and lemon grass (great to grow if you like to cook Thai food). Be sure to plant the mint in a pot, unless you want it to spread in your garden.

And for a refreshing summer drink, try this Lemon Balm Quencher:
Mix 4-6 tablespoons honey with ½ cup hot water in a small pitcher. Add ½ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice and 2 cups water. Stir and chill until cold. Before serving, stir in 1/3 -1/2 cup lemon balm or mint leaves (or a mix of both), lightly crushed. Pour into glasses with ice and garnish with lemon slices. Enjoy!

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