Garden Photo of the Day

Rebuilding a Garden After a Fire

Epitaph of a much loved home and garden

Today’s photos come from Carol Cowee. Her images remind us to cherish the beauty of our gardens and inspire us to rebuild when disaster strikes.

This was my garden of 34 years in Redding, California, Zone 9. We had nine acres, mostly on a hill, and could only garden on the top part, which was not level. It was a very challenging garden: no soil, only rocks, and nowhere to dig soil with a shovel. My main tool was a rock bar! I had 170 roses, and as a plantaholic, I had countless plants and bulbs. We had a magnificent view of Mt. Lassen and Mt. Shasta.

On July 26, 2018, the Carr Wildfire tore through our area and instantly destroyed our steel prefab home and the garden. Fortunately, I constantly took photos of the garden, the house, and the many arrangements I had made over the years. I plan to write a book, mostly a picture book, titled Epitaph of a Much Loved Home and Garden.

We have sold this property, which now looks like war zone, and bought a nine-year-old home on the other side of town with a nice, smaller garden. At 80, I will carry on and continue my love of gardening. I was able to dig up about a dozen mini roses that survived not only the fire but three hot months with no water. They are alive and vigorous, in pots, waiting to be planted in their new garden.


The rose Mme. Isaac Pereire climbing up the rose trellis.

Climbing Iceberg rose

Mature ginkgo and persimmon trees presiding over the garden.

Climbing Peace rose on the railing, Royal Sunset climbing an oak tree in back, and Mt. Lassen to the right.

After the fire: the best ever rose trellis made from chainlink fence posts.

After the fire: my 44-year-old gingko and the persimmon tree.

The arrangement here is the last one to come from my garden. Farewell . . .


Read this article to find plants that can help prevent fire damage.

Read our interview with Douglas Kent to learn about firescaping. Doug is an adjunct professor at Cal Poly Pomona, where he teaches ecological land management, ecological restoration, regenerative life-support systems, and landscape construction. He is also the author of the book Firescaping.


Ways to help

Consider donating to relief efforts by going to California Community Foundation (a five-star organization on Charity Navigator) and donating to its Wildfire Relief Fund.

Here are other organizations to consider.


To learn more about firescaping

Doug Kent’s book, Firescaping, is available from Amazon.

Read Doug’s article in the LA Times

More information on firescaping from Fine Gardening.

Have a garden you’d like to share?


Have photos to share? We’d love to see your garden, a particular collection of plants you love, or a wonderful garden you had the chance to visit!

To submit, send 5-10 photos to [email protected] along with some information about the plants in the pictures and where you took the photos. We’d love to hear where you are located, how long you’ve been gardening, successes you are proud of, failures you learned from, hopes for the future, favorite plants, or funny stories from your garden.

If you want to send photos in separate emails to the GPOD email box that is just fine.

Have a mobile phone? Tag your photos on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter with #FineGardening!

You don’t have to be a professional garden photographer – check out our garden photography tips!

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View Comments


  1. mjensen 01/11/2019

    that is so sad, heart breaking, you had a beautiful garden, good luck in a new place

  2. sandyprowse 01/11/2019

    Carol, I loved all the pictures of your magnificent garden before the fire. Such a heartbreaking loss for you. Having also lived through a fire which devastated my home and garden I can identify with the pain you are experiencing. I am glad both that you have some rose bushes which survived but more importantly that you are carrying on and continuing your love of gardening. That wonderful gumption will get you through this period. It does get better with time. I’m so glad to have seen your garden as it was. Thank you.
    Sandy Prowse
    Toronto, Canada.

  3. nwphillygardener 01/11/2019

    Kudos to you Carol!
    I feel honored to see those regal bowers of roses and then to see how brilliantly you put them to work in such a grand arrangement. This really speaks to our hearts and - as if speaking about a dear family member - I am sorry for your loss. You'll take away more than memories and GREAT PHOTOs. If the fire hasn't destroyed your appetite to keep planting, you will have knowledge that allows your new garden to give you new joys more quickly…… a metaphor for life's ups and downs. It's always about the process more than the result. Wishing you and the potted friends you escaped with good health and peace.

  4. User avater
    vanhatalosuomi 01/11/2019

    Being rather new to growing roses in my own garden, I can sympathize with your love of them & how terrible you must feel at the loss of your garden & home.

    I admired your photos as they truly showcase the beauty and glamour roses bring to a garden space.
    Congratulations for growing such lovely specimens - it's obvious from their prolific blooms and vitality that they were much cared for and were reward for all your hard work & efforts.
    Thank you for sharing your photos!
    Best wishes in your new gardening endeavors!!

  5. User avater
    treasuresmom 01/11/2019

    Carol, I just don't know what to say other than it was all so beautiful. I would love to read a book that you write. Hopefully, there will be some way to let us all know when you do & it is published.

  6. User avater
    carolcowee 01/11/2019

    I was so glad to share what was such an example of the possible beauty of the earth! I do belong to our local Shasta Rose Society and the American Rose Society where learning how easy and rewarding growing our nation's official flower is!
    Thank you all for your lovely comments

  7. User avater
    meander_michaele 01/11/2019

    Your spirit to keep on gardening in a new location is inspiring and it's additionally heartwarming that you have those dozen mini roses to start you off. Your after the fire pictures are very sobering and a humbling reality check. Good luck with the next stage of your new life.

  8. cheryl_c 01/11/2019

    Oh, Carol, I can only imagine what you are going through, as we lost our dream home to a fire about 4 1/2 years ago. We lost many trees and most of the gardens either to the fire itself or to the demolition and reconstruction that came after. Three years after the fire we still were removing trees that had only survived for a year or two. Life is transitory, and our gardens, even at their best, remind us of that often. Life is also persistent, tenacious, and arises out of death - as we also see in our gardens. I know you will build another beautiful garden, or two or three. I am so glad for you that you have pictures - they will help you with your wonderful memories. Thank you for giving us such a poignant reminder of how fleeting beauty can be, and the importance of taking time to see and enjoy it. Blessings on your new endeavor.

  9. wittyone 01/11/2019

    I am so sorry for your loss. I can imagine, but not feel, how painful the loss of your garden has been. The upside of this downside is that you and yours escaped intact along with a few reminders of your lovely garden. You have a new space to beautify and spring is about to return for yet another year and it offers you an opportunity to begin a new gardening adventure with a wealth of experience to speed you on your way.

  10. edithdouglas 01/11/2019

    I cried.

  11. User avater
    simplesue 01/11/2019

    This garden story is such an inspiration!
    Not only the fact that they didn't give up and they started all over again- but at age 80!
    I love Fine Gardening's daily garden photos- so nice to see real gardens and real stories from regular gardeners doing what they love!

  12. btucker9675 01/11/2019

    Watching the news of those terrible fires brought me to tears on a daily basis. I weep for the loss of your home and beautiful garden and trees, but feel joy in your desire to make a garden in your new home and that you had some roses from the original garden! God bless you.

  13. User avater
    user-7007816 01/12/2019

    You are an inspiration. I look forward to photos of your new garden.

  14. [email protected] 01/12/2019

    Carol- Having grown up south of you, in Gridley, Butte county, I am very familiar with your area. While the Carr fires were burning your town, 2 of my girlfriends were up here visiting me in Washington. Luckily, there homes (one in Anderson, one in Redding), but our hearts were in our throats for a few days. So sorry to see the loss of your home (and such a big part of your life), but so glad to have seen the beauty you created, and to hear of your resolve to start again, in a new spot. Sounds like it may be a bit more hospitable to your more common garden tools. And I really love your trellis! May have to try to duplicate that in some way. Footnote: another girlfriend lost everything in the Paradise Camp Fire. We are all a decade behind you, Carol.My beloved California! Hope you have a good rainy seas, with just the right amount of rain....

  15. grannieannie1 01/13/2019

    Carol, thank you so much for posting photos of your former beautiful garden full of luscious, cascading roses. You and your determination to begin anew are a precious example to all of us.

  16. joe_green_thumb 01/13/2019

    Sorry about the fire. Your garden was so beautiful. I'm sure your new garden will be nice too

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