As a starting point, make an initial list of plants you want to plant in a garden. In doing this, it is important to:
Choose plants that are suited to the local growing conditions.
Check with your local council about legislative controls that may apply to your property. These may influence what and where you can plant.
Check for characteristics that influence flammability. These are outlined in Section 5.
Identify the plant species, including both the common name and the scientific name. This is important as even closely related plants in the same genus can vary greatly in their flammability.
Take note of the size and form of the plant at maturity. Plant labels often focus on plant size within five to ten years of planting and may not be reliable for this assessment.
Note how the plant will look in summer and whether it is susceptible to disease, insects or pests. This information can be obtained from plant websites, books, the local nursery or council.
2. Work through the key
Begin at 1. What type of plant is it? and follow the prompts to the next number.
Record how many ‘Less Firewise’ or ‘Not Firewise’ results the plant receives in the record sheet at the end of the key.
Collate the results in the record sheet.
3. Rate each plant for its suitability in the garden
The table on page 45 outlines four firewise ratings – Not Firewise, At-Risk Firewise, Moderately Firewise and Firewise – and a corresponding flammability rating. The flammability rating of individual plants depends on the number of ‘Less’ or ‘Not Firewise’ results you record.
Once you have established the firewise and flammability rating for each plant, you can determine the plant’s suitability for use within a garden, where it should be planted (presuming it is suitable) as well as maintenance requirements.
Has single or multiple woody trunks and grows from 5-30 metresor over at maturity.
Single-stem trees typically branch well above the ground, while multiple-stemmed trees typically branch close to the ground.
Foliage is concentrated in the canopy allowing other vegetation to grow underneath.
Has highly variable leaf and bark types.
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Palm or palm-like
Vary greatly in height.
Generally have a single woody trunk topped by fronds.
Many species retain dead fronds which can be flammable.
Australian palm-like plants include tree-ferns, screw-palms, cycads and grass-trees. They can grow several metres tall and also have a ‘skirt’ of dead fronds or leaves close to the ground. This is an important flammability characteristic as it can act as a ladder fuel.
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Are shorter and generally more compact than trees, typically 3-4 metres in height with branching close to the ground.
Have dense, bushy foliage and woody stems.
Because of this structure, shrubs can carry fire from the ground to the tree canopy.
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Vines and climbers
Have soft or woody stems and are climbing or scrambling plants. Are often grown over fences, pergolas or trellises and can grow over other plants.
Can be deciduous or evergreen. Some accumulate large amounts of dead leaves.