Plant design around seasonal allergies

(Question)

I’m allergic to grass and pollen.
Is it possible to plan a garden around my allergies?
I realize that the neighbours will do what they want., on both sides in my small west end toronto garden of 400 sq feet. I don’t go to the front where there is a grass lawn now. I have some irises, flox, peonies(didn’t do well last year), and pink and red roses which I’d like to keep, though.

I’m planning to uproot that lawn later too, and wanted some knowledge before I contact a couple of companies from Garden Ontario to put something in which is very low maintenance. Should I be more specific about my pollen allergies since I noticed that the commercial weather network has numerous kinds of pollen counts daily, if I have the garden uprooted, when describing my needs to a contracted gardening company?

Also, when using a gardening company, is there any advice you can offer me? I’m planning to attend your talk on “tips for low maintenance gardening”.

Thank you

(Answer)

When selecting plants, it helps to know how they are pollinated. Plants that produce wind-borne pollen are among the worst culprits for allergy suffers. Wind borne pollen tends to come from flowers that are small and unattractive. Because they’re not attractive to bee pollinators, the flowers had to evolve in order to be wind pollinated.

Instead, gardeners with pollen allergies should select plants that are pollinated by insects, butterflies, and hummingbirds. Most showy flowers tend to be bee magnets. Pollen grains in insect/bird-pollinated plants tend to be larger, heavier, and stickier than pollen produced by plants that rely on wind-borne pollination. Instead of traveling through the air, insects and birds carry this type of pollen from plant to plant. The staff at your local garden center can help you select insect/bird-pollinated plants for your area.

Another hidden culprit of allergy sufferers is the fragrance of some plants including roses. Herbs such as rosemary and lavender can produce quite a bit of scent and can be just as irritating as pollen for some people.

Trees most likely to cause allergy symptoms include: alder, ash, aspen, beech, birch, box elder, cedar, chestnut, cottonwood, elm, hickory, juniper, maple, mulberry, oak, olive, pine, poplar, walnut and willow.

Ornamental grasses are some of the most popular landscape plants for a low maintenance garden because they are drought tolerant and versatile. However for allergy suffers grasses are the worst pollen producers since their flowers bloom for a long period of time.

Check with your local nursery  for a list of plants that are low pollen producers.

Here is an excellent article about Allergies and Gardening from The University of Vermount of interest.