FIREWISE: Critical Information for your home.


Wildfires are a part of life in the great American west. You can greatly reduce the risk of wildfire burning your home by practicing “firewise landscaping.” This is the practice of creating a “defensible” space” around your home and across your property, as much as 60 to 100 feet from the house. The Bureau of Land Management and municipal fire agencies have put some guidelines and safety tips for homeowners.
Create Zones of Defense

Zone 1, from the house outward, 30 or more feet: use fire resistant plants only (list follows). These are primarily low-growing, fire resistant plants, particularly ground covers and vines. Keep plants and the area near the house well maintained, removing “duff” or dead plant material . Keep grasses mowed and well irrigated. A gravel mulch is recommended and has several benefits: it will reduce water loss, keep plant roots cool, and discourage weed growth. Break up the plantings near the house with stone patios and walkways – this minimizes the ability of fire to run along continuous fuel sources. Be certain to clean out gutters and rake up leaves.

Zone 2, 30-60 feet from the house or farther: reduce plant density. Use only low-growing and fire resistant plants and shrubs. Keep tall grasses and shrubs well groomed and space them. It is recommended they be planted two times their height apart. For instance, a shrub that will reach 10 feet of height at maturity should be spaced 20 feet from its neighboring shrub.

Zone 3, 60-100 feet from the house: thin and prune existing plants. Prune tree limbs 6-10 feet up the trunk of the tree and minimize overlapping branches between trees and shrubs.

Fire Resistant Plants

All plants are flammable, but some plants are more fire resistant than others. They have high moisture content, are low growing, with high salt or soap content and are non-resinous. They will generally have large leaves and green stems, too.

Avoid sage, pine and juniper which are high in resins and volatile oils making them extremely flammable. Plants which are deciduous are preferable to conifers. Drought tolerant plants (most of which are listed in this book), have thick succulent leaves.

In the list below, the plant groups are from the top to bottom, the most flammable to more fire resistant. Note that conifers and grasses are at the TOP of the list and can be dangerous.

Conifers (least fire resistant)
Deciduous trees
Succulents (most fire resistant)

Note that fire resistant vines and groundcovers are generally inexpensive and relatively easy to maintain. Vines can be trained on metal fences to create a “green fence” which may stop or at least slow down a wildfire.


Fire resistant ground covers

Ajuga – Ajuga reptans
Basket of Gold – Aurinia saxatalis
Bearberry or Kinnikinnick -Arctostaphylos uva-ursi
Caucasica sage – Artemisia caucasica
Creeping phlox – Phlox subulata
Creeping thyme – Thymus praecox
Giant flowered soapwort -Saponaria x lempergii
Green mat penstemon- Penstemon davidsonii
Ground cover rose – Rosa hybrid
Hardy iceplant – Delosperma spp.
Hardy plumbago – Ceratostigma plumbaginoides
Hens and chicks – Escheveria spp.
Hummelo lamb’s ear- Stachys monieri ‘Hummelo’
Japanese pachysandra- Pachysandra terminalis
Lamb’s ear- Stachys byzantina
Lily of the valley- Convallaria majalis
Mat penstemon- Penstemon caespitosus
Mother of thyme – Thymus serphyllum
Poppy mallow – Callirhoe involucrata
Pussytoes- Antennaria spp.
Rock soapwort – Saponaria ocymoides
Rockcress- Arabis spp.
Silver-edged horehound- Marrubium rotundifolium
Snow in summer – Cerastium tormentosum
Turkish speedwell – Veronica liwanensis

Fire resistant vines

Chocolate vine – Akebia quinata
Clematis – Clematis spp.
Climbing hydrangea- Hydrangea anomala petiolaris
Dragon Lady crossvine- Bignonia capreolata ‘Dragon Lady’
Grapes – Vitis spp.
Honeysuckle- Lonicera spp. and hybrids
Hops vine- Humulus lupulus
Kiwi vine- Actinidia kolmikta
Matrimony vine* – Lycium barbarum
Purple Leaf Grape- Vitis vinifera
Silver lace vine*- Polygonum aubertii
Sweet Autumn clematis- Clematis terniflora
Sweet pea- Lathurus latifolius
Trumpet honeysuckle- Lonicera sempervirens
Trumpet vine- Campsis radicans
Virginia creeper* – Parthenocissus quinquefolia
Wisteria Wisteria spp.

*Can be invasive

Fire resistant shrubs and trees

Aspen – Populus tremuloides
Birch – Betula spp.
Buckthorn- Rhamnus spp.
Buffalo berry- Sheperdia spp.
Currant- Ribes spp.
Lilac – Syringa vulgaris
Maple Acer spp.-
Mountain Mahogany- Cercis ledifolius
Service berry- Amelanchier spp.
Skunkbush sumac -Rhus tribolata
Snowberry – Symphoricarpos spp.
Western Sandcherry- Prunus basseyi
Willow – Salix spp.

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STUDIO CHOO does it again! Inspiration for creating magic with sprigs, twigs, flowers and fruit from the garden or the field. Make a wreath, a swag, a gift. Wreath Recipe

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From Zone 4 Magazine: Orange Tomato Jam with Smoked Paprika


This recipe is from the latest issue of Zone 4 Magazine, where I found a great article on Marisa McClellan’s Preserving by the Pint. Sungold tomatoes are delicious and wildly productive (read: a lot!) I thought it would be a good recipe to make/share. The addition of smoked paprika is brilliant!

Orange Tomato Jam with Smoked Paprika

12 cups chopped orange tomatoes
2 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon red chili flakes
2 teaspoons freshly grated ginger
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon cayenne

Combine all ingredients in a large, non-reactive pot. Bring to a boil and then reduce temperature to a simmer. Stirring regularly, gently boil the jam until it reduces to a sticky, jammy mess. Cooking at a fairly rapid pace, it should take about an hour of cooking.
When the jam has cooked down sufficiently, remove from heat and fill jars, leaving 1/4 inch of head space. Wipe rims, apply lids and twist on rings. Process in a boiling water canner for 20 minutes.

When time is up, remove jars from water bath and allow them to cool. When jars are cool enough to handle, test seals. Store jars in a cool, dark place for up to one year.

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Silver Award from Garden Writers.

Yours truly winning the Silver Award of Distinction for writing a story about Cougar Annie.

Yours truly winning the Silver Award of Distinction for writing a story about Cougar Annie.

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Wine cups. You want several.

Callirhoe involucrata

Callirhoe involucrata

Wine cups are a wonderful, waterwise/drought tolerant, colorful, plant for any garden in Mountain States. Heck, for any garden! I found my original plants at a Fred Meyer ?store in Boise. They can be mail ordered from High Country Gardens, as well. They started blooming in May, and are still going strong. I cut them back by about a foot, and did so twice this season. It keeps them from getting to straggly. Harvest the fully mature seeds and scatter them wherever you’d like to add some bang bang color to your garden.

Botanical name: callirhoe involucrata
Color: hot pink
Size: 6 inches tall by 6 feet wide
Perennial that gently reseeds.

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Rockin’ the garden in the heat of summer.

There are a handful of plants that are working hard right now, and by that I mean, lookin’ good in the garden. Hell, even I don’t look good in the garden. We’ve had a month of days over 95, and several of those popped above 100. And then some.So, while most of us are just holding on and surviving the heat, a few seem to relish it. Here’s a quickie run down:

Lilium Henryi: Lily henry

Sedum Matrona and the fantastic Blue Grama grass (buteloa gracillis)
Sedum Matrona: for richer color, larger blossoms with Blue Grama grass ( GWWW  Photo)

Blue Oat Grass: blue oat grass

Agastache ‘Shades of Orange'” I can actually hear the hummingbirds zipping around to feed on this. agastache_aurantiaca_shades_orange_lg

The hotter the better for hardy hibiscus: Lord Baltimore, a tried and true tropical looking thing. Botanical named Hibiscus moscheutos, this hottie does well anywhere in our region, Zones 4-10. Flowers are sensational and up to 10 inches across. Plants are big, so give them room, 5 feet tall and as wide.

Thinking out loud here, the blue oat grass would look awesome paired up with the towering Henry’s lily, and the Shades of Orange would be another excellent choice in that grouping. A colorful, drought tolerant, sun loving, can-take-the-heat-combo.

Grab the badge!

Grab the badge!

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Rockin’ the garden now, in the high and dry heat of summer

A short list of the plants that are holding up well to this relentless heat and no rain:

-The prince of my high desert garden, Henry’s lily. Still loaded with blossoms, 5+ feet tall. Orange and sunny.
-Desert Four O’ Clock, mirablis multiflora, purple, mounding spreading groundcover. Lavender flowers, gray green foliage.
-Anise hyssop, or hummingbird mint or agastache. Orange Flare is rocking it. In the past, Ava has done a grand job. Need to replace Ava.
-Wine cups, callirhoe involucrata. Great spreader, deep magenta. Trim back to keep it from getting messy and to keep it blooming.
-Oakleaf hydrangea, big, blowsy cream or cream w/pink tinted blossoms. Needs water every 4 days or so, but so strong.
-Rose of Sharon, coming on STRONG. Will not stop until a hard frost. Covered with blooms, white, pink, white w/dark maroon throat.
-All the ornamental grasses.
-Sedum matrona.
-Tomatoes (yum)
-Peaches (waaaaaaaaaaay yum).

When the going gets tough....

When the going gets tough….

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July’s “GOOD TO KNOW” for the Mountain States Garden


Excerpts from the Timber Press Guide to Vegetable Gardening in the Mountain States
(If you like this, you will love the book!) Look for it at your local book store or on Amazon here.

Know How

Blanching apricots. Bring a large saucepan of water to a rolling boil. Carefully slide 3 or 4 apricots into the water, let them sit a minute, remove from the water with a slotted spoon. Over the sink, working quickly so not to burn yourself, slip the skins off the apricots. Separate the halves, remove the pits. Freeze as they are or make into jam.

Harvesting and storing garlic. (End of July – early August in most areas) Just a few months ago you plugged little cloves of garlic (pointed end up) into the garden and waited patiently. Now it’s time to embrace that stinking rose and get it out of the ground and ready for the pantry. Knowing the perfect time to harvest garlic is a bit tricky but not rocket science. Carefully brush back the soil and look carefully at the bulbs: do they have good looking shoulders? Are they filled out nicely? Sometimes you just have to go in with a trowel or shovel and have a peek. Gently and carefully dig straight down around the outside of the formed garlic bulb, loosening it from the soil and lifting it upward. Using your other hands, carefully remove the bulb from the soil and inspect it for fullness and size. Never try to pull the bulb from the ground. Brush off the soil, and remove the garlic to a cool, dry place to cure. If the bulbs are not quite filled out and ready, leave them another week or so. If they are ready, harvest, cure and store.

Making mint tea. Bring a large pot of clean water almost to a boil, turn off the heat. Add 4 to 5 black tea bags and a huge handful of freshly cut and washed mint trimmings to the pot. Cover and let rest for 10 minutes. Cool and enjoy over ice.

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Idaho Botanical Garden, 2014 Private Gardens Tour.

from the Idaho Botanical

from the Idaho Botanical


Avid sign collectors, they created the building facades to display the art.

Avid sign collectors, they created the building facades to display the art.

And they have an extensive vegetable garden, half of which you can’t see in these pics. Thanks to the Percy’s for sharing their garden on behalf of the Idaho Botanical Garden.

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Garden Bloggers Bloom Day, June 2014

1-GBBD June 2014

GBBD June 2014 Collage

Blue Flowers GBBD June 2014

4-GBBD June 20143

Special thanks to Carol at May Dreams Gardens for arranging our monthly gardening love fest.

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