Happy 2020 from Desert Rose! We wish everyone a wonderful New Year and a warm and cozy January! While it may seem strange to be talking about allergies in the middle of winter, but for those of us with allergies we know the sneezing never seems to stop. In this month’s blog we will review how to create a low-allergy garden. It might seem impossible to have beautiful flowers and be a severe allergy sufferer, but with a little planning it can be done.
For starters, why do plants make us sneeze and itch and suffer? It all comes down to one thing: pollen. And what is the point of pollen? Well, it's time to get uncomfortable and have that talk, yup, about the birds and, well mostly the bees. Pollen is produced by the male parts of a plant. The pollen is carried by the wind or bees to the female parts of a plant in order to create seeds and keep the plant's genetic lineage alive. The seeds are often on the inside of a fruit, berry, or some object (for the most part) that entices an animal to eat it. Once eaten, it is carried inside the animal until the animal’s digestive system expels it. The seeds are often undigested and left in a pile of manure. This deposit creates a great starting place for a new plant to emerge in an area far away from its place of conception.
The mechanism of traveling to a new location helps spread the plant's genetics into new environments and helps to keep the plant from going extinct. While some plants are strictly male or female (dioecious), others can self pollinate (have both parts on the same plant, known as monoecious). And now that we got some basic biology out of the way (phew!), let's talk about how to use that to our advantage to create a low allergy garden.
The first goal is to stay away from is wind pollinating plants. These plants produce lots of pollen in hope that a gust of wind will carry its genetics to female plants far away. Think of a male juniper plant, as just a small tap on its branches can cause a plume of yellow pollen to cover the surrounding area. So what are our options? Bee pollinated plants are your best bet for reducing allergens in your yard:
Perennials (F = Female)
Coral Bells (F)
Red Hot Poker
Chicks and Hens
New Mexico Privet
These are just some examples of bee-pollinated, allergen-friendly plants, and with selective breeding by knowledgeable cultivators, I'm sure we will see more allergy friendly plants in the future. After reviewing the above list, I’m sure a few of you are thinking, but how do we know if a tree is male or female? For plants that are dioecious (either male or female) it is fairly simple. Take a juniper for example - if it has berries on it, it’s a female. If the tree turns from green to slightly brown several times a year and releases plumes of yellow stuff, it’s a male.
Pro Tip Alert! if you have bad allergies to chamisas or male junipers and they are on your property, it might be worth it to have them completely removed and replace with something more allergy friendly. Also, if you have bad allergies to wild grasses keep them short as not allowing them time to grow tall and fully mature will prevent their pollen sacs from being released all over your yard.
Although we can't guarantee the wind won't blow in pollen from neighboring yards, you can still have a low allergy landscape that you can enjoy with reduced amount of pollen coming from your yard. Have more questions about allergen-friendly gardening? Contact your local experts at Desert Rose for more information!