"Bless you!" If you've been hearing that a lot from your family and
co-workers recently, maybe you're one of the millions who begin to
suffer from allergies around this time every year.
It's not really practical to create a totally "allergy-free" landscape
as part of your living space (not even with two or three acres of
concrete) but you CAN take steps to put the odds in your favor.
A friend of mine, who suffers miserably from pollen-related allergies,
asked me if there were any shrubs and plants that were ‘friendlier' to
people like him. The answer is "Yes!"
One of the first things you need to know is that there is a difference
between insect-pollinated plants and wind-pollinated ones. When plants
rely on the wind to carry their pollen, that pollen, understandably,
is small and light... and thus much more likely to be an irritant to
those of us with allergies. Pollen from insect-pollinated plants is
much heavier so it is far less likely to blow around and end up
tickling your mucous membranes.
Examples of wind-pollinated (anemophilous) plants: ragweed, Bermuda
grass, and sagebrush. Oak trees, being wind-pollinated, can cause an
allergy problem, too. Interestingly pines are the exception to the
airborne pollen rule because their pollen grains are resinous, making
it difficult for mucous membranes in the nose to absorb them.
Examples of insect-pollinated plants: pansies, tulips, hostas,
sunflowers and irises. However even some insect-pollinated plants can
affect super-sensitive noses. If that sounds like description of your
own nasal passages, you should avoid planting roses, star jasmine, and
gardenias and other highly scented plants.
Of course, the examples I've given are just that: examples. Different
people have different allergic sensitivity, and you might be fine
with, say, oak trees but not with sunflowers. But choosing plants that
are pollinated by insects rather than via the wind will certainly make
your landscape a lot more "nose-friendly" for you!
There are two excellent web sites with much more information on this
subject where you can find comprehensive lists of plants to avoid. I
have embedded "hot links" to both sites in the version of this column
archived at my web site, www.landsteward.org Simply find this column
under "The Plant Man" heading and click on these links:
And now, a quick look in the e-mail bag for some questions from
QUESTION: "I have 3 holly bushes about 6 years old that were doing
great. This year they are full of brown leaves. Can you give me some
tips to save them?" – Wendy Thomas
ANSWER: I just spoke with a grower in Massachusetts this morning. He
said that he has a field full of large hollies that look like a fire
went through them! He tells me that winter burn has been very bad this
year. He and I agree that there is not much you can do but hope that
they will bud out and regenerate again. In most cases they will, so
this shouldn't be a "fatal" problem.
And another holly question...
QUESTION: "When is the best time to cut back a holly tree? It is about
20 feet tall but rangy, and too close to a house. I thought if it were
pruned back it might branch out, and needs to be cut away from the
house anyway. Is it okay to cut branches back about half way?" –
ANSWER: Dead, diseased, and broken wood can be removed at any time of
year. However, for general pruning the best time is in late winter or
early spring just before growth begins. There is no big secret to
pruning. When you are ready to begin you need to look at the bush and
imagine how it will look each time you take off a limb. Don't be
afraid to cut limbs. Just get an idea of how they will look as they
fill back in. Any adjustments can be made during the growing season.
There are many great sites on the net. Here is a link from the
University of Delaware.
The Plant Man is here to help. Send you questions about trees, shrubs
and landscaping to firstname.lastname@example.org and for resources and
additional information, including archived Plant Man columns, visit
www.landsteward.org where you can also subscribe to Steve's free