Recommendations for healthy low-allergy landscapes

The rise of plant allergies in the residential landscape

The trend of selecting male species from male clones, has spread from urban spaces, to nurseries and into residential landscape design. Many residential foundation plantings are junipers, and some can be male or female. Male junipers planted at the front of your house can cause allergic reactions for your family and pets. Some residential landscapes are planted completely with male plants! Many home owner’s may not be aware that when a tree or shrub is labeled ‘seedless’, it means that the plant is a male. The female mulberry tree produce large crops of messy fruit loved by birds; the male mulberry tree is sold as “fruitless” mulberry which produces huge amounts of allergenic pollen.

Recommendations for home owners for a low-allergy landscape

So what do we need to do to have a low-allergy landscape? We need  trees and plants that have seeds, fruits and berries to create diversity which is positively correlated with improved quality of life. Seeds, berries and fruits attract wild life, many of whom are beneficial to the soil, for pollination and for the plants around them. They also bring less allergies, less asthma and cleaner air.

  • Check out sites for a list of low-pollen and pollen free plants, such as www.allergyfree-gardening.com
  • Plant that female Gingko tree in a place away from paths so you don’t have to walk through smelly fruit. Plant high pollen producing male trees and shrubs away from doors and bedroom windows.
  • Diversify, diversify and diversify! Plant some Super-Trees; these are trees and shrubs that have low pollen and low volatile organic compounds (VOC) such as: buckeye trees, dogwood trees and shrubs, female maple trees, female holly trees and shrubs, osmanthus trees and shrubs, redbud trees, viburnum trees and shrubs
  • Flowers that are pollinated by bees and insects are in general, are allergy -friendly plants  such as: zinnias,tulips, daffodils, roses…
  • Ask for help in identification of low-allergen plants and grasses from your local N.C. State and A &T cooperative extension office.
  • Shop at reputable nurseries who can correctly and reliably identify the plants as male or female, and ask for suggestions for plants with low pollen.
  • Ask landscape designers and landscape architects to design low- allergy landscapes and push for local by-laws to establish guidelines for the design of urban landscapes with a low allergy impact

To quote Ogren (2003)

An Ideal Landscape is …high in diversity of plant materials

An Ideal Landscape ….will have a number of females and other pollen-free plants

An Ideal Landscape ….will have plants that are well-adapted to that particular area

An Ideal Landscape…is not dependent on chemical sprays but is one where disease-resistant plants are used

An Ideal Landscape… is a healthy landscape, a functional, pleasing place to relax and enjoy. Stress aggravates all illnesses, and an ideal landscape is one that is stress reducing”

dahlia
Dahlia-low allergenic flower
sage, geraniums
tri-colored sage, lantana, Japanese iris and geranium-low allergen flowers
tulips
Tulip- low allergen flower

References

“Allergy Free Gardening. The Revolutionary Guide to Healthy Landscaping.” Thomas Leo Ogren

“Safe Sex in the Garden (and other propositions for an allergy-free world)” Thomas Leo Ogren

“Why This Pollen Season is the Worse” http://www.weather.com/health/pollen/news/2015-pollen-season

The Landscape and Urban Planning Journal review of “Urban Green Zones and related pollen allergy. Some guidelines for designing spaces with low –impact allergy” Paloma Cartinanos and Manuel Casares- Porcel from the Department of Botany, University of Grenada, Spain

“How to have a low-allergen garden” The Guardian newspaper at thegardian.com

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2 thoughts on “Recommendations for healthy low-allergy landscapes

  1. fascinating. i had no idea we could create a low-allergy landscape. So important to know in a world where more and more people suffer from asthma and more and more allergies.

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    1. Yes, I must admit that I knew that allergies to pollen had definitely increased in the past few years although I did not put two and two together until fairly recently! In 2002, when I was studying plant identification, one of the college professor’s complained about the planting of female gingko trees beside a path, saying that the male should have been planted there instead because of the mushy female fruits. Admittedly, that was not a good design choice for that situation. Even then, it did cross my mind that if we started to plant only male trees because they were more “convenient” – it might lead to unforeseen repercussions.

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