Out of the ashes - what to plant after a bushfire
Wednesday 12 February 2020
It’s been a hard summer for Eurobodalla’s native fauna and flora, with 80 percent the shire burnt by bushfire and many residential gardens destroyed. Eurobodalla Council’s Landcare coordinator Emma Patyus says for some, gardening can be an excellent salve for body, mind and soul.
“Using the right garden plants can provide shelter and feed for wildlife, and gardening can be good for people too,” Ms Patyus said.
“Now is the ideal time to add local species to your garden mix, and if you’re starting again from the ground up there are some drought tolerant and fire retardant species that provide the right stuff for wildlife.”
Ms Patyus emphasised there is no such thing as ‘fireproof’ plants.
“All plants can burn in specific circumstances – typically extreme fire weather following extended drought,” she said.
“Groundcovers are a great way to increase soil moisture content, supress weeds, and provide colour to the garden. They create habitat for lizards and insects and feed for birds and animals. One of the hardiest include native pigface (Carpobrotus glaucescens) which can be grown from even the smallest of stem fragments.
“Other beauties include creeping boobialla (Myoporum parvifolium) and native violets (Viola hederacea). Longlasting and iridescent purple fairy fan flower (Scaevola aemula) and grass daisy (Brachyscome angustifolia) are a fun, vibrant addition to any garden and tolerate the sandiest soils.”
Ms Patyus also recommends salt bush for their interesting foliage and great habitat potential – with Atriplex cinerea and Rhagodia candolleana both fast growing and fleshy – and easy care rushes like lomandra and dianella which grow in almost any type of soil.
“Useful shrubs include many of the nectar-laden grevilleas, which the birds just love, and the sparsely leafed but flower laden Indigofera australis. The bigger lilly pilly species work well as a feature plant or grown together as a hedge. Our local native lilly pilly (Acmena smithii) can grow to 15 metres though, so you might want to go with the smaller hybrids found at garden centres. The gorgeous Blueberry Ash (Elaeocarpus reticulatus) is a great rainforest feature plant with its unique foliage and May Gibbs inspired flowers.”
Ms Patyus said gardeners and aspiring gardeners could follow simple rules to create their water wise and fire ready personal oasis.
“Use plants with a high moisture content – those with fleshy or broad leaves or with a high salt content,” she said.
“Prune them regularly to encourage fresh green growth, and clear dry or dead material well before the fire season.”
She said only non-flammable mulch should be used close to buildings – “consider using pebbles and rocks or a living groundcover such as the plants mentioned above, then incorporate water features, rock paths and non-flammable art or garden furniture for colour and intrigue.
“Even though all plants burn, measures can be taken to reduce fire intensity from garden plants,” Ms Patyus said.
Emma and environment team colleague Tom will be available at Moruya markets this Saturday for a chat about post-fire gardening and all things environment including wildlife feed stations, weeds, cat bibs, and Landcare.