Widows, Orphans & Disabled Firefighter’s Fund Volunteer Teresa Mackey wanted to revamp her backyard with plants that can adjust to the hot climate of Tujunga. Through research, she stumbled upon an article in the L.A. Times about native plants that featured Cassy and Kirk Aoyagi’s landscaping business: FormLA Landscaping, Inc.

FormLA Fire-wise garden back wall defensible space

Beforehand, Mackey mainly focused on the climate part of landscaping, but later learned how her landscaping could stop a house from burning down during a fire.

Over the years, Southern California has experienced destructive wildfires resulting in damaged wildlife. Cassy says that 84 percent of fires are caused by human-related activities. But, she says, people can take action in preventing and mitigating fires.

FormLA Fire-wise garden Desert WillowAs an environmental studies graduate, Cassy shares her tricks to “fire-wise” your garden. There are no fireproof plants, but hydrated materials can make your garden fire-resistant. And plants native to L.A. can hold hydration well compared to invasive plants.

Even though the palm trees are symbolic of Hollywood, they are not native to Southern California. Palm trees blaze quickly when ignited by fire.

Other imported plants, such as grass have difficulty maintaining hydration during L.A.’s hot and dry summers.

Grass tends to dry and shrivel up swiftly: a perfect recipe for fire kindling. “The irony is these grasses (Pampas, Feather and Fountain grasses, along with Pride of Madera) were promoted as drought-tolerant, increasing their appeal to Angelenos through the 2010s,” she says.

FormLA Fire-wise garden al frescoMany Angelenos assume they can’t grow green plants in the city’s desert climate; however, the luscious and leafy quality of native plants thrive in their natural habitat. Instead of river rocks and succulents–switch to Cleveland Sage and Deer Grass. FormLA Landscaping, Inc. specialty in native plants also allows its business to flourish in the City of Angels.

They provide services to homeowners, as well public spaces across L.A. County from Tujunga to Arcadia in the east and from Malibu to Playa Del Rey in the west.

“We’ve created city parks, public (library, city hall, fire station) gardens, gardens for multi-family and mixed-use developments, as well as demonstration gardens for non-profits including Descanso Gardens and the Santa Monica Conservancy,” Cassy says.

FormLA Fire-wise front gardenSince 2017, her company has partnered with many L.A. homeowners and organizations, helping to educate people about fire-wise landscaping through workshops and tours. The company recently recruited clients to open their gardens for a public tour hosted by the Theodore Payne Foundation and Mackey’s backyard was one of the homes featured.

After the Woolsey fires, Cassy’s business collaborated with TreePeople, Global Green and L.A. Chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council in showing support to the people who lost their homes. And, the company also partnered with Descano Gardens to create a workshop on landscaping for disasters, not limited to just fires, but also slides and droughts.

Next year, the company looks forward to expanding their fire-wise discussion through more community engagement. To learn more about Cassy’s work, visit: https://www.formlainc.com/about/

FormLA Fire-wise garden with Sara the dogHere’s more information on native plant alternatives: https://plantright.org/about-invasive-plants/plant-list/