Southern California style: Firescape

Firesafe Demonstration Garden in San Diego showcases fire-resistant plants
Debra Lee Baldwin

Last year's fires spared the north San Diego community of Elfin Forest, but the backcountry area was not so fortunate in 1996, when a firestorm burned more than 100 homes and 8,600 acres. As these houses were rebuilt and new landscapes were installed, residents researched fire-resistant plants. Then, to show how these plants would look together, volunteers installed the 1/3-acre Firesafe Demonstration Garden alongside the local fire station.

Just beyond the garden's information kiosk are drifts of low-growing, water-retaining plants such as ice plants and ivy geraniums. These segue into drifts of larger succulents and shrubs, as well as trees like coast live oak. The plants overlap and flow together, making a beautiful garden filled with ideas you can duplicate at home.

INFO: Elfin Forest and the Firesafe Demonstration Garden (dawn-dusk year-round; free; next to the fire station, 20223 Elfin Forest Rd.) are located west of Escondido. At the Elfin Forest Garden Festival (10-4 Apr 24, 2004; $20; Elfin Forest Nursery, opposite the fire station), volunteers will give tours and answer questions.