I love summer. From the moment the breeze gets a nip to it and the deciduous trees start to present their autumn colour I am looking forward to warm weather, summer dresses and cooling off in the ocean. Warm weather makes me feel alive, it always has. Since I was a teenager competing in swimming competitions in northern New South Wales, Spring and Summer were for activities and winter was for hibernation. I have never orchestrated it to be this way, that’s just how it is… I don’t like the cold.
This year however, I am feeling a little different about summer and what summer means to this parched land I call home. Recent temperatures would suggest that summer has already paid us a visit. Ironically, today, I am sitting inside wearing a jumper, jeans and Ugg Boots. But last week we watched as our television screens showed our friend’s neighbourhoods perish under the force of spring bushfires that ravaged many areas around Sydney.
The debate will continue as to the cause of many bushfires but it is certain that there are a number of preventative measures home owners and communities can take to keep themselves and their homes safe. This would be the perfect opportunity for me to give my opinion on building style and materials, location and aspect, the latest and greatest technology in fire retardant applications, but I’ll leave that for you to research and establish your own opinion. What I will say though is that the plants you have in your garden can and most probably will influence the effect that a fire can have on your home.
But why does the Australian bush burn so well? The land is dry, particularly at the moment, but also the species that make up the majority of the plant communities are ‘flammable’. They contain oils that are combustible, think Eucalyptus sp., Melaleuca sp., they both contain oils. These oils allow the trees, shrubs and groundcovers to easily catch alight from embers, distributing the fire quicker and more easily. All plants will burn, but some will ignite and burn quicker than others and the ones you don’t want around your house are the quick burning ones.
And, dare I say it, the Australian bush likes to burn – that’s how it rejuvenates and renews. Some seeds need fire and extreme heat to encourage germination and continuation of the plant community.
In a suburban landscapes there is a great deal of fire fuel, for example, dried mulch on garden beds, fallen vegetative debris around our gardens, thirsty, dry plants, clogged gutters and tree branches over hanging roof tops. The need to tidy this ‘fuel’ in suburbia is aesthetic but in bushland it is vital to the protection of homes.
Some may feel that it is too late now, the fires have already been, it is too close to summer. Not so, don’t have any regrets as summer approaches, engage a garden designer/horticulturist to help you begin the process of protecting your home. They will advise you on screening plants to help reduce wind speed and falling embers, vegetation that will assist in reducing radiant heat, provide you with a maintenance plan for your garden and much, much more.
Yes, I am still excited about summer but I know that our land will burn and unfortunately for some, it may be a little too close for comfort. I wish those living in fire prone areas all the best during this fire season and for those piecing their lives together from the rubble of what was once was their home, I wish you courage and strength.
Until next time