According to Asthma UK
there are 5.4 million asthma sufferers in the UK (1.1 million of them
children), a number that is rising – up 33% in the last decade. Every ten
seconds someone has a potentially life-threatening attack, with an average of three
people dying every day from the condition. With the main trigger for an asthma
attack being allergens, the pollen in your garden and in the environment around
you could literally be deadly.
Even if you don't have
asthma you can still suffer in summertime. When spring turns to summer,
sneezing and red streaming eyes give away those for whom pollen is a nightmare.
But when sprays and tablets can’t keep the hay fever at bay, you might consider
the wisdom of Tom Ogren and start planting some trees and bushes instead… so
long as they are of the right variety.
Tom Ogren has been
championing the concept of the ‘allergy free garden’ for more than 30 years, a
concept that has been ignored for most of that time, but with allergy rates
skyrocketing, more and more people are beginning to ask why and looking
seriously at Ogren’s solutions.
All plant life is either
male, female, mostly male or mostly female. And with the male of most plant
species being the big pollen producers the answer to our allergy woes could be
as simple as planting more female (or mostly female) plants, bushes and trees.
Ogren’s theory is that
one of the reasons why we have seen a steep rise in allergy sufferers in recent
decades is that those in charge of planting trees in cities had to make a
decision about whether they wanted tree that dropped lots of seeds (female) all
over the pavement for someone to clean up, or trees that don’t (male). They
went with pragmatism and, therefore, many of the trees in our streets are male
(this may be an oversimplification). When this thinking is escalated to parks
and gardens in towns and cities it exaggerates the problem. Nature has a
certain balance – male bushes and trees give off pollen and females of the
species absorb it. Disturb that natural balance and what you’re left with is
lots of pollen with nowhere to go – an environment in which even the mildest of
allergy sufferers will suffer.
Allergy free gardens are
While Ogren is an
advocate of change on a nationwide basis to close the gender gap between male
and female trees in our cities, he also has some wisdom for homeowners – how we
can all start with our own back gardens.
If you have lots of male
flowers, plants, bushes and trees in your garden you may suffer more from
allergies or asthma, but you can counter that by creating a gender balance.
This can be achieved by:
- You can
remove male bushes and trees. If they’re big pollen producers then you could
simply remove the source. Though that’s not always practical or desirable.
- You could
keep on top of your mowing. Grass can be male or female (or mostly one or the
other) too, but no matter which yours is, if you keep on top of the mowing you
can prevent it from flowering and minimise any pollen creation.
- You can
add more female bushes and trees to your garden. This will create a balance,
with the female plant life trapping the pollen. But remember you need to plant
the female of each male variety of plant life you have.
female trees. If you have a particularly pollen-rich male tree you can plant a
female tree of the same species right next to it, and between it and your home
or your favourite place to sit in the garden, and the female tree will trap
much of the pollen the male tree produces. This could even work if the male
tree isn’t in your garden, but annoyingly is in a neighbour’s.
can also limit pollen production. To prune a male tree more often could limit
its ability to flower and, therefore, its pollen production, though this is
something your local friendly arborist could provide you with specific
information about, based on the trees you have in your garden.
The elderly, the infirm
and those suffering from asthma are the most likely to be in danger of the
harmful effects of pollen, so Ogren’s solutions could well be implemented at
care homes, hospital grounds or in gardens.
Having tall hedges of female
shrubs on the borders of your garden could even help to keep out pollens from
the surrounding environment and protect you from the sniff and itch produced in
the wider world.
However, pulling up
bushes, chopping down trees or planting them should only be done in consultation
with your local friendly arborist – taking expert advice will mean they will be
planted in the best place to improve their health and survival prospects, and you
can be sure their roots won’t cause any issues.
To book a survey and consultation with one of our ARB Approved arborists for
advice on your trees, or to book our tree surgeons to prune/maintain or fell
your tree(s), call us on 0208 292 8992.