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Creating a Beautiful and Fire-Smart Landscape
Presenter: Bob Mauceli, Marin Master Gardener

7:30 p.m. – Online Zoom Presentation

This summer and fall, wildfires have been on our minds and evident in the air we breathe. Fire agencies are encouraging property owners to “harden” their homes and landscape to fire. However, homeowners wonder how to convert mature gardens to fire-smart landscapes. Marin Master Gardener Bob Mauceli is grappling with that very problem in his established native plant landscape in Novato. At the upcoming October CNPS Marin Chapter Meeting, Bob will present ideas to help others create landscapes that are ecologically sensitive, beautiful, and more resilient to fire.

Many homes and businesses in Marin County are built in the Wildland Urban Interface (WUI), where suburbia meets natural vegetation. The benefits of living in the quiet beauty of the WUI comes with increased risk of fire. The Marin Wildfire Prevention Authority (MWPA) has begun evaluation of properties in these fire-prone areas, noting suggested actions for owners to improve their homes’ ability to survive fire. Since our well-established, mature home gardens and landscapes are typically not designed to lessen the threat of wildfire, many recommendations involve modifications to existing vegetation.

Where to begin? And how to progress? How can we avoid the easy fix of removing all vegetation, leaving a “scorched earth” look?
In his Novato garden, Bob Mauceli’s goal has been to develop a fire-smart landscape design that protects structures while retaining or improving garden health, biodiversity and sustainability; e.g., support beneficial wildlife, efficient use of water, and development of a healthier natural environment. His presentation will demonstrate what steps he has taken to date and what future work he is planning for his garden. Significant changes in established infrastructure and plant location have been and will be done. Techniques he will address include: ideas for creating the all-important 0-5 ft. space around his home’s perimeter; how to break up the continuity of plants on slopes; proper pruning and mulching guidelines; non-combustible hardscape materials that enliven paths and patios; effective use of native plants; and essential maintenance practices.

Bob considers his yard a work-in-progress toward a fire-smart garden. His experiences will help other homeowners in Marin and beyond with their planning to fire-harden their own established home landscapes while retaining beautiful, enjoyable, and ecologically sensitive gardens. He will give attendees a clear understanding of what to do (and what not to do).

Bob Mauceli has been a Master Gardener for almost 17 years, ten years in Rochester, NY and almost seven years in Marin county. He is co-founder and current co-chair of the Marin Master Gardener (MMG) Native Plants Guild, as well as co-chair of the MMG Garden Walks project, and a frequent worker and tutor on the MMG Help Desk. He has been a member of the MMG Fire-Smart project senior team since it was formed one year ago. Bob and his wife Sandy are also birders and have built mostly native plant gardens and habitats on their hot and hilly 0.75-acre homesite in northern Novato and where they have lived elsewhere.

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Join us for this Chapter Meeting via Zoom. A link to the meeting will be sent within a day of the meeting