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:
PART I: THE INTRODUCTION
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
PART II: THE BIG PICTURE
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
PART Ill: THE INDIVIDUAL PLANTS
THE PLANT FLAMMABILITY TABLE
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
Part IV: THE SCIENCE
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
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
- This book can be purchased as a paperback from Amazon US from the link below:
Safer Gardens: Plant Flammability & Planning For Fire
- The paperback is also available from Amazon UK, worldwide from the Book Depository, Barnes & Noble in the USA, and Blackwell’s and Oxbow books in the UK.
- The book can also be purchased from the publisher’s web site – https://scholarly.info/book/safer-gardens-plant-flammability-planning-for-fire/
- The webpage for the book which contains a link to stockists – https://www.firesafergardens.com/
- The eBook is much cheaper, and is available from Amazon US from the link below:
Safer Gardens: Plant Flammability & Planning For Fire
Note: Tables in all eBooks tend to be a bit hard to read when using a small hand-held eBook reader, but when viewed on a computer screen, using a free eBook reader, the tables are easy to read.
- Release date: 04-2021
- Format: Paperback
- ISBN: 9781922454607
- ISBN10: 1922454605
- Author: Lesley Corbett
- Publisher: Australian Scholarly Publishing
“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!
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