Don’t let seasonal allergies prevent you enjoying your garden. We have some tips for creating a low pollen garden for hay fever sufferers.
I’m lucky enough to have escaped the misery of hay fever. However I really do feel sorry for anyone who struggles with the itchy eyes, runny noses and aches and pains that happen whenever airborne pollen sends their immune system into overdrive. Imagine staying indoors on a lovely day – that sounds like a form of torture to me!
The Manor Landscapes team and I have come up with some garden design ideas for a low pollen garden that might enable you to get outdoors more.
- Identify and learn about the plants in your garden – which ones are aggravating your condition?
- Manage your lawn with care – or swap the grass for a gravel garden
- Create a pollen barrier to reduce the amount of allergens that blow into your garden
- Avoid common garden products that may produce mould spores
- Think about building a summerhouse or a leafy arbour where you can keep pollen at bay
Which plants aggravate hay fever?
Plantain is commonly found in wildflower gardens or growing as a weed in lawns – it is definitely not a low pollen plant!
Pollen is, unfortunately a vital part of plant reproduction. However, there are broadly speaking, two types of plant reproductive styles.
Insect pollinated plants – these are your friends. Pollen tends to be heavy and sticky so that it’s easy for bees to transport it. Very little of it finds its way into the air that we breathe.
Wind pollinated plants – grasses, trees and fungi (technically not a plant) that puff millions of pollen particles and spores into the air in the hope that some might find their goal. These are the plants that you need to avoid having in your garden.
Downloading an app like “picture this” or “PlantSnap” will help you to identify the plants and trees in your garden that should probably be swapped for something less likely to aggravate your hay fever.
Don’t forget to identify the weeds too – nettles, dock and plantains are demon pollen producers.
Before thinking about felling mature trees – check with your council that they don’t have preservation orders on them.
Lawn care for hay fever sufferers
Natural lawns are often cited as emitting high levels of pollen. And yes, grass pollen is one of the biggest triggers for hay fever. However, if you lawn is never allowed to flower – it shouldn’t (in theory) be puffing pollen around.
Mow little and often to stop those flower heads forming. Examine your lawn too for a grass species called Poa Annua (Annual Meadow Grass). It holds its flowers quite close to the ground and they can be missed by the mower. If your grass contains Annual Meadow Grass – it has coarse, pale leaves and sometimes makes the lawn look spotty- talk to a lawn care company about the best way to control it.
Alternatively, why not swap your lawn for a surface that doesn’t emit pollen? Enlarge your patio, create a gravel garden, or, even though it’s not my favourite stuff, install artificial grass. There are plenty of lawn alternatives that will suit a low pollen garden.
Create a pollen barrier
As hard as you might try to avoid wind pollinated plants in your own garden, you cannot control what blows in on the wind. You can however, put up barriers to divert the wind.
A natural hedge – provided you choose the plants carefully – is amazing at blocking the breeze and filtering out pollutants. Don’t go for yew, laurel, leylandii, privet or cypress though – they are wind pollinated plants. Instead, choose native mixed hedging, laurel or holly which are insect pollinated plants.
What other garden products aggravate hay fever?
Some pollen is produced by weeds so it’s prudent to keep unwanted plants under control. The most environmentally friendly way to control weeds is by mulching. BUT bark mulch and home made compost potentially harbours moulds. Moulds are an essential part of the ecosystem but their spores can play havoc with asthma and hay fever.
Instead of mulching with bark or compost, use a thick layer of gravel. It’s very attractive, drains beautifully and can be spread beyond planted areas to make paths and seating areas.
gravel or pebbles make an attractive feature in the garden. Aside from the grasses in this picture, all of the plants are insect pollinated.
Use garden structures as extra protection against pollen
Advice for hay fever sufferers includes staying indoors with the windows shut to avoid airborne pollen. Especially in the early mornings and late evenings when pollen is more prevalent. But how about taking the indoors outdoors?
Scientists and sufferers confirm that pollen levels drop nicely during and after a rain shower, but who wants to stand out in the rain? A garden shelter will mean that you can be warm and dry – but also outdoors on rainy days. Think about a summer house, a pergola with a roof and sides, a sail or even an intimate arbour.
Build your structure in the right place and it will protect you from the prevailing wind on sunny days too – thus limiting your exposure to allergens.
Swathe your shelter in climbing plants that will filter dust, pollen and mould spores from the air before they reach you.
A carefully designed and built garden can become a refuge for hay fever sufferers. The team at Manor Landscapes have a wealth of experience at building gardens that really do enhance lives. Contact us for more details
For hay fever friendly planting ideas, read this article from The Royal College of Pathologists