Avoid Allergy Triggers In Your Garden:
Spring and Summer are wonderful times to get out into the garden and enjoy getting close to nature – unless, of course, you have allergies.
If you’re unfortunate enough to suffer from allergies triggered by pollen and plants, then you’ll want to eradicate the culprits and replace them with plants that will allow you to enjoy your garden without the runny nose, streaming eyes and itchy throat.
First we’ll tell you about some of the common allergy triggers and then we’ll give you a list of plants that will be easier to live with. It might mean you have to dig up some of your favourites, but, you’ll find that there are equally beautiful alternatives that will allow you to enjoy the outdoors without those nasty side effects.
Common allergy triggers:
Sunflower: who doesn’t love these giant, sunny blooms? Unfortunately they’re also prone to setting off nasty allergic reactions.
Chamomile: yes, this calming herb is a hay fever trigger. If you’re especially sensitive, it can also react with your skin and you’ll find drinking Chamomile anything but calming.
Daisies: many of us love those cheerful, down-to-earth blooms, but the pollen, the leaves and even the flowers are often very effective allergy triggers.
Jasmine: this beautifully perfumed vine is also a big allergy trigger – and as we often have this plant indoors or in containers near the house, it’s probably best to avoid it.
Juniper: one of our B.C. landscape staples, Juniper can cause hay fever and skin rashes.
Wisteria: it’s such a pity that this showy vine is a quick way to suffer a severe bout of hay fever and even skin rashes.
If you’re feeling a bit disheartened because we’ve pinpointed one or more of your favourite plants, we have good news. There are alternatives that are just as pretty and rewarding to grow.
Here are some of the easiest alternatives to grow in our climate:
English lavender (Lavandula angustifolia). There are any number of lavenders, and you no doubt know, these plants are the ultimate multi-taskers. The gorgeous purple flowers in Summer can be used for tea, soap, baking, cooking and many other uses. Lavender is a compact shrub with silvery green leaves – indicating that it’s also a great addition to the xeriscape garden. It’s not just humans that love lavender, so do pollinators! It’s hardy, loves everything from full sun to part shade and doesn’t need much water. Simply trim back when flowering is over.
Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis). Rosemary shares many characteristics with Lavender, but has a few more variations including upright, bushy, weeping or creeping varieties. It grows between 1 and 8’ high but will spread as far as allowed. It also attracts your favourite pollinators and is a wonderful addition to your culinary efforts.
Rosemary doesn’t require much maintenance. It doesn’t like too much water and will grow in relatively poor soil. Cut back tips to shape it. Hardiness depends on the specific variety so check with your garden center as to which variety is best for your location.
Mint (Mentha spp.). If you’re looking for a plant to fill up bare spaces, then mint is it! It spreads aggressively. And that’s fine because you can use mint in cooking, baking and in teas! It’s hardy, easy to grow and doesn’t require much maintenance at all. Mint grows to about 2’ tall but will spread as far as you allow it to. It likes everything from full sun to part shade.
Woolly thyme (Thymus pseudolanuginosus) is an excellent ground cover that grows quickly and in almost any kind of environment. It has small leafed green foliage and small pink flowers throughout summer and grows about 2 – 3” high and about 3’ wide. Woolly thyme likes full sun and requires very little water once established so it’s perfect for xeriscaping. Can be used as a lawn replacement, a wall adornment or anywhere you need some low maintenance cover. All that’s necessary is to trim it back periodically. It attracts butterflies, bees and other pollinators. It’s hardy to -28.9 C, so it can survive even a cold winter like our last one.
Fall phlox (Phlox paniculata) produces fragrant white, pink, rose, red or lavender coloured flowers the whole summer. It’s perennial and very hardy, requiring very little maintenance. All that’s necessary is to dead head and pinch back tips to encourage the plants to become more bushy instead of lanky.
Clematis: a hardy, long flowering vine that rivals Wisteria for showiness. They like full sun to part shade – keep the roots shady and the rest of the plant in sun for best results. They like well drained soil but do need regular watering and fertilizing. They’ll also need some support to climb on. Depending on the variety, these vines can grow quite large – from 10’ to 20’. Clematis offer a variety of flower colours including white, pink, purple and blue.
Sweetpeas (Lathyrus spp.) come in varieties including annual and perennial, vines, bushes, and varieties that flower at different times. They might not be quite as showy as Wisteria, but still offer lots of pretty flowers and fragrance to the garden without the allergy triggers. They can be a little more picky about their environment, so before planting, check with your local garden center to ensure that your choice of location will yield good results. They require a little maintenance needing regular watering and dead heading.
Goldenrod (Solidago spp.) keeps the colour going with swathes of yellow flowers from late summer through the fall. Depending on the variety, they can grow as high as 8’ and will spread by seed. If you don’t want them to spread, dead head before the seeds appear. If they do spread or become too dense, they can be divided in the Spring. Like many of the plants we’ve mentioned, these happy flowers are almost maintenance free and are especially attractive to pollinators. They like anything from full sun to part shade and can do well in less than ideal soil conditions.
Daylilies (Hemerocallis hybrids)? are easy to grow, low maintenance, hardy perennials that love full sun. They do need regular water as soon as the temperatures warm in spring and right through to the beginning of winter. Daylilies grow 2.5 – 4’ tall and spread 2 to 3’. There are several varieties with different blooming times, and some even re-bloom. You can choose evergreen, semievergreen and deciduous and can be divided if they become too dense.