With large tracts of Australia burning and many communities affected by bushfires or living with the threat of fire, it is becoming increasingly obvious that incorporating firewise design principles into gardens and property layouts will be a priority in the future. This will include areas that historically haven’t been considered a high fire risk area.

Design Principles

Firewise Landscapes – Managed landscaped area and entry and exit points to a property.

Incorporating good design principles into large gardens ensures that a garden can be created that is bush fire wise, aesthetically pleasing and functional. Creating a cleared 20m barrier around the house and outbuildings certainly reduces fire risks, but doesn’t need to be bare earth.  This area can be used as access driveways and paths, gravel, lawn or planted with low flammability shrubs. This area is referred to as the managed landscape area. Correct plant selection is crucial in high risk areas and the use of certain tree varieties have been proven to slow the speed of a fire, reduce radiant heat and reduce the risk of ember attack. Many deciduous trees are particularly effective as they have high moisture content and minimum volatile oils within their foliage. Mass planted they also look spectacular in autumn with their ever changing golden, red and claret hues.

Firewise Landscapes – Managed landscaped area and entry and exit points to a property cont.

Investing in structure or background plantings forms the backbone of a large garden. Think of these background structural plantings as the ‘walls’ of the garden, and positioned correctly can assist with managing fire risks within a property. Without these plants, the whole garden will fall apart and feel like an eclectic collection of plants in the ground vying for attention as an individual rather than joining together as a whole and creating a complete feel.

Creating a master plan is important, this sort of planning doesn’t have to be elaborate, it can be created on a piece of butchers paper, but will outline the different areas needed on the property. The easiest scale to work with is 1cm = 1m. Firstly, mark boundary fences and a north point then draw in any building footprints or proposed footprints and existing footprints if required. Remembering perfect straight lines isn’t important many famous gardens have been created with a few line drawings and sketches.

 Entry and exit points on a large property are a priority. At this stage consider the existing points, were they adequate or can their placement be improved to facilitate service vehicles and delivery vehicles. Is it possible for large oversized vehicles to turn around? Take into consideration overhead height.  Mark on the master plan driveways and parking areas, basic garden areas and outdoor living areas, in block form at this stage. It’s a good idea to colour code different areas. Consider how these areas may be linked together in the future. Are there any level changes on the property? Look at access onto lower levels. The sloping ground is deceiving and often the drop or rise is far greater than first thought.  Is it possible to get any machinery that may be required to a different level of the property? This is the perfect time to consider the north-facing aspect and to take advantage of solar passive design principles.

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