On the metropolitan fringes and in country Victoria a new set of landscape guidelines for residential developments is evolving.  In one, Surf Coast Shire has published a booklet entitled ‘Landscaping your Surf Coast Garden for Bushfire’ to guide new residential landscaping.  This document provides a set of design principles, a number of built landscape examples, landscape plan examples and a number of plants with desirable characteristics.  It is apparent that there is a developing lexicon of requirements to be considered in designing the landscape around a dwelling in these areas including in particular the following.

  • Use of ‘firewise’ plants – that is, plants that are easily maintained by pruning or mowing, require little water, do not lose large amounts of leaves or needles, have thick fleshy leaves or stems, display leaves with an open transparent branching pattern, have a high moisture content (succulents) and or have a smooth bark.
  • Separation of combustible / flammable from non combustible / non flammable elements.
  • Creation of planted and non planted areas – separate clusters of planting with non-planted areas of gravel, lawn or paving.
  • Creation of barriers (non-combustible structures) to fire threats such as northerly winds, radiant heat and embers).
  • Minimisation of the ladder effect (fire rising or falling through different heights of plants) by not planting shrubs under trees.
  • Creation of a non-combustible ‘buffer’ along boundaries to slow / stop the spread of fire to / from neighbouring properties.
  • Other than mown grass, prostrate groundcovers or succulents, avoidance of plants within 2 to 3 metres of the house.

This may have major implications for the normal expectations of a landscape garden designed without consideration of bushfire.