As one in four of us now suffers from seasonal rhinitis, while 5.4 million people in the UK are receiving treatment for asthma, it’s time to take a can-do attitude to gardening for those of you longing for a sneeze-free summer. Here are some tips for allergy free gardening…
If you’re weepy after weeding—we have a problem, and it’s important to know the most common triggers of allergic rhinitis. Research suggests that the worst offenders to our sinus serenity are airborne substances like mould, pollen, pollutants, animal dander, or dust. With that in mind, let us investigate how to tackle these troubles to say astalavista to allergies.
Allergy inducing plants
Firstly, you may need to avoid wind-pollinated plants if you’re somebody who suffers with allergies or hay fever. Unfortunately, many of our common trees are just that—wind-pollinated.
Examples include Betula (birch), Aesculus hippocastanum (horse chestnut), Quercus robur (oak), Acer pseudoplatanus (sycamore), Taxus baccata (yew), to name a few. All of these will produce large amounts of pollen in early summer. However, trees that produce attractive blossom are better—and visually pleasing. Some examples of trees that you may find less troublesome come hay fever season would be Amelanchier (shadbush), Cornus (dogwood), Rosaceae (crab apples) and other fruit trees.
One rule to remember is that, generally, bee- and butterfly-friendly shrubs and perennials are better to allergy sufferers. This is because insect-pollenated flowers won’t give you as much grief as wind-pollinated ones. Plus, the bees and butterflies will benefit too!
The RHS symbol for
bee & Butterfly friendly plants
looks like this! Easy to spot when
on the search for
Weeding, for those of you with allergies, may aggravate your symptoms. However, all isn’t lost because the answer is weed-suppressing ground cover plants, such as hardy Geraniums and Alchemilla, shade-loving (clump-forming varieties of) Epimedium or, the eternally useful, Pachysandra.
To avoid a sniffly spring, it might be time to lose the lawn. Being wind-pollinated, all grasses are unfavourable for allergy sufferers. Which might explain why your hay fever flairs up around spring when it’s lawn mowing season? Perhaps try keeping areas near the house grass-free and opt for a stoned or decked patio instead.
This goes for pollen heavy plants around your home too—best not to plant Chrsyanthemums, Helianthus annuus (common sunflowers) or Wisteria near to your windows and doors were pollen can be blown into the house. For alternative outdoor climbing plants to compliment your brickwork, without the added pollenated problems, try Clematis armandii for a sun-loving climber with a vibrant floral display.
Docks, nettles and
plantains keep a steady
pollen attack from May to early
September, but it’s usually
worst in June.
Friendly allergy-free flowers
Flowers in summer are a gardener’s must have.
But if you’re struggling to see them through streaming eyes, here are some varieties to avoid and simple substitutions to soothe your symptoms.
Sweet smelling cultivars like Jasminum, and other strongly scented flowers, may be an irritant to you if you’re sensitive to pollen.
An alternative to these much-loved spring climbers would be Lathyrus (sweet pea) which also bloom in soft spring-like hues but can be enjoyed without threat of a sneeze attack.
Although some of you may need to keep your distance from blooms like Aster, Gypsophelia (baby’s breath), Dahlia, Chrysanthemums, and, sadly, Helianthus annuus (sunflowers)—which are passionate pollen producers, don’t fret, some suitable substitutions for you to explore include:
These free-flowering plants are in just about every shady garden and tend to shed little pollen. All popular types of fibrous or tuberous begonias are safe bets for allergy sufferers.
The beautiful “flowers” of a bougainvillea are actually the bracts surrounding the flowers. The tiny, tubular flowers are inside and produce only small amounts of pollen.
Camellias are monoecious, meaning they have both the male and female reproductive organs on the same flower and that therefore their pollen does not have to travel far for pollination. This makes them a good choice for sensitive noses.
Geraniums (Pelargonium) give off very little pollen. In fact, scientists have even developed a pollen-free geranium which, if made commercially available, could be the answer we’re looking for.
Petunias give off a faint scent that becomes much more pronounced when the plants are grown in large numbers. However, their pollen is considered a low or non-allergen.
People with hay fever
should use caution drinking
hibiscus tea, which is made with the flowers
and can still contain
plenty of pollen.
Inside air purification
As for your home, it’s best to identify plants that promote clean air because this is essential for healthy living.
Pollutants and mould spores can wreak havoc inside your home. Mould can be rife in damp weather and is particularly bad as we move into the winter season.
To avoid these irritants from exacerbating pre-existing allergic conditions, we can call on our pals, plants, for some support.
In a study by NASA, certain plants were proven to be best for removing toxins for the air and promoting pure air for us to breathe at home. Hedera helix (English ivy) is a clever creeper that removes all sorts of nasty airborne toxins.
It’s nicknamed “the cubicle plant” for its ability to grow in less-than-ideal settings —one for those small, dark corners. It can reduce mould particles and carbon monoxide toxins all at the same time!
A sneeze free breeze
The attempt to minimise mould is a difficult one when it’s prevalent in composting—and composting is the gardener’s bread and butter, relatively unavoidable.
But you can use gravel or shell mulches rather than bark or cocoa shell (which is prone to moulds).
Nature has been a source of medicinal agents for thousands of years, and an impressive, yet not surprising, number of modern drugs have been isolated from natural sources.
So, instead of turning to over the counter remedies, look to the natural healing power of plants.
Use these tips for allergy free gardening so you can enjoy your space and make the most of the garden all year round.
So there you have it—there are more to plants to keep allergies at bay than is immediately obvious, so why not try making a few changes to your indoor & outdoor relationship with plants and see if it might clear things up for you a little!
Getting on top of your allergies is key if you want to tap into the joy of gardening. There’s so much to be gained from spending time outdoors so try these clever tricks to get you one step ahead this summer for allergy free gardening.
Happy allergy free gardening everyone!
Make use of spare
bubble wrap to wrap around pots and
containers.This will protect the roots
of potted plants from the effects
David Domoney is a Chartered Horticulturalist, Broadcaster, and Author. David has worked with a number of the UK’s leading garden retailers as a plant buyer and strategic consultant. With more than 30 years experience, in horticulture, David is as passionate about plants now as he was when he bought his first plant at a village fete.
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