Book Review – Safer Gardens: Plant Flammability & Planning For Fire by Lesley Corbett


Safer Gardens: Plant Flammability & Planning For Fire by Lesley Corbett is one of the most reliable, comprehensive, and well-researched books published to date on the subject of fire-resistant plant and tree selection.

This phenomenal text is a massive compilation of scientific research from around the world, covering more than 500 plants, detailing their flammability, as well as other useful information, such as invasiveness and specific plant needs.

With more than 400 pages of invaluable information packed between the covers, It’s most impressive how accessible it all is.

The simplest way to use the book is to look up the Plant Flammability Table, it’s a quick-reference list arranged in alphabetical order by botanical name, and includes plant common names, whether the plant appears on Australian state fire lists, the flammability rating and associated research, weed rating, and plant form – whether it’s a tree, shrub, vine or groundcover, and if it’s deciduous or an Australian native.

The section that follows, Detailed Information about Individual Plants, provides 220 pages of detailed plant information, expanding on the information in the table, with more research findings, and additional comments. The organisation of the data is excellent, the chapters are divided up by plant type, namely – Deciduous trees and shrubs, The orchard, Evergreen trees and shrubs, Low plants and climbers, and Succulents.

This part of the book is more than a reference though, as each of these chapters is eminently readable, even addictive to those with a thirst for knowledge. I found that once I started reading a chapter, as I would a regular book, I couldn’t put it down until I finished it, as it’s packed with so much fascinating information! I was delighted to learn that citrus trees, despite having oil glands on the leaves, are rated as low flammability by researchers, who also suggest that lemon groves can function as greenbelts for fire control.

What makes this book even more useful is the inclusion of excellent practical information, backed up by real-life reports from the aftermath of major bushfires around the world, detailing what worked and what didn’t, which plants survived and which perished. There’s a whole chapter on how to create a less flammable garden, and I found the chapter on the fire effects on mulches highly educational. The chapter on plants for erosion control, which is an important issue after fires have removed groundcover vegetation, is a thoughtful inclusion.

I’ve reproduced the contents section below, to show how information-rich this book is, and how well all that information is organised:


Abbreviations viii


1. Your garden can help save your house 3
2. How to use this book 5
3. How I selected material for this book 9


Improving the Safety of your Garden
4. How to create a less flammable garden 13
5. What’s so good about deciduous trees 21
6. Climbers, hedges, vegetables, grasses, invasive plants 25
7. Fire effects on mulch 29
  Stories from the real world
8. How plants behaved in fires 32


  9. A guide to the Plant Flammability Table 51
  10. The Plant Flammability Table (including key) 58

  Detailed Information about Individual Plants
  11. Deciduous trees and shrubs A-Z 112
  12. The orchard A-Z 152
  13. Evergreen trees and shrubs A-Z 177
  14. Low plants and climbers A-Z 285
  15. Succulents A-Z 321


  Assessing Plant Flammability
  16. Plant flammability factors 335
  17. Conflicting research 341
  18. Final comments 347

1. Plants for erosion control 348
2. Explanation of flammability classifications 351
3. Sources used in this book 358

Glossary 373
Resources 378
Bibliography 383
Notes 398
Acknowledgements 405
Index 407
Key for The Plant Flammability Table 425

Lesley Corbett, the author of Safer Gardens: Plant Flammability & Planning For Fire, is an Australian writer, who lives in the Perth hills, in the southwest region of Western Australia. She began researching plant flammability after looking out of her window at night, and seeing flames in the State forest which had been deliberately lit, not far from where she lives.

As the old proverb states, “necessity is the mother of invention”, and the writing of this book is a case in point.

In a fire-prone country such as Australia, it is timely that such a book should finally emerge. There has been a demand for reliable fire-control information in this country for a long time, and also in many other countries around the world where bushfires cause extensive destruction of wilderness areas, and tragic loss of loss of life and property.

The publisher’s book description highlights this fact:

“Destructive bushfires are increasing in frequency and intensity around the world. For people living in fire prone areas there are no reliable guides about which plants have low flammability and which are frighteningly flammable. Safer Gardens is that guide, with over 500 plants assessed, based on fire research from around the world.

Readers can look up a plant in the Plant Flammability Table to get an idea of its flammability then turn to the A–Z for more detailed information. The book contains advice about ways to create a more firesafe garden, including the need to carefully manage the use of mulch and hedges.

This is citizen science, written by a gardener for other gardeners. Complex and potentially confusing science is made comprehensible and usable, to help you make your garden and hence your house safer.”

The publisher,  Australian Scholarly Publishing, points out that this is citizen science, and that Lesley does not have a scientific background but became very familiar with the subject in the years she spent researching plant flammability.

As a person with a science background, after reviewing this book, I can say what makes this book so wonderful is that it is indeed scientific and objective, while remaining extremely accessible for the non-technical reader. Lesley Corbett has done a brilliant job and I commend her for her efforts. The author cites all the sources used, with additional notes alongside each reference. There’s an excellent glossary of technical terms used in the research cited, so there’s no need to look elsewhere to find the explanations for those technical terms. A resources section and an extensive bibliography are also provided for readers who wish to further their understanding on the subject.

Purchasing the Book

Book Details

Safer Gardens: Plant Flammability & Planning For Fire” is an excellent book which addresses the outstanding need for reliable information on the subject of fire-resistant plant and tree selection, and provides exactly what is needed. It’s an accessible and practical reference, which based on scientific research, that people living in fire prone areas can depend on. This book is definitely recommended!

Deep Green rating for “Safer Gardens: Plant Flammability & Planning For Fire” by Lesley Corbett is 5 stars!


If you are interested in submitting a product for review, please contact us via email at , thanks!

3 thoughts on “Book Review – Safer Gardens: Plant Flammability & Planning For Fire by Lesley Corbett

  1. Sounds great, but at $65 it’s a little expensive right now.
    A kindle version would be wonderful.

    1. Hi Jude, thanks, I’m curious as to whether the publisher will also produce an eBook version, as many people use digital books these days.

    2. Great news, there’s an eBook version now available on Amazon for under $10 USD or $12 AUD,
      I’ve added links to the book review above. At this price, it’s super affordable!

Leave a Reply