Hayfever

At this time of year while many gardeners are rejoicing at the warmer weather and the longer evenings there are many gardeners dreading the inevitable onset of their annual bout of hayfever. In Ireland about one person in every ten suffers from seasonal hayfever. Hayfever generally occurs in people susceptable to alergies when the person’s immune system overreacts to normally harmless substances in the air such as pollen or dust. While the body’s immune system normally ignores these substances, at this time of year the sheer amount of pollen in the air can fool the immune system into thinking it’s under attack. In sufferers the body reacts to the pollen by producing a chemical called histamine which causes many of the symptoms of hayfever including sneezing and runny eyes. While many people find that medicines are essential to help them through the hayfever season, by changing the way that you garden it is possible to limit your exposure to pollen and to significantly decrease the symptoms of hayfever.
   Almost all plants produce pollen at some time in their life cycle but some plants are worse offenders than others. Plants that rely on the wind for pollenation tend to produce much more pollen than plants which rely on insects for its distribution. By avoiding plants that rely on the wind for pollenation you should be able to reduce the amount of pollen flying about in our immediate area and thus reduce the symptoms of your hayfever. Trees and grasses tend to be the worst offenders, but some flowering plants such as daisys and many of the heavily scented climbers can also cause irritation. While grasses tend to be a major cause of hayfever it is worth noting that the lawn is not usually a problem as regular mowing prevents the grass from flowering and from producing pollen.
   By selecting plants that are polenated by insects for your garden it is possible to create a little hayfever-friendly enviroment for yourself. There is a huge range of these plants widely available which are suitable for any situation in the garden, from your hanging baskets right and window-boxes up to your shrubs and trees. Below is a list of some of the more popular plants that tend not to agrivate the symptoms of hayfever sufferers.

Shrubs: Camellia, Hebe, Hydrangea, Viburnum and Weigela.
Trees: Almost all ornamental fruit trees (including flowering cherries) are suitable for hayfever sufferers.
Climbers: Clematis, Passion Flower and Virginia Creeper.
Perennials: Astilbe, Daylillies, Hardy-Geraniums and Poppies.
Bedding Plants: Begonias, Fuchsia, Busy-lizzies, Petunias, Pansies and Violas.

More information on low allergy gardening can be found on the web site of The Asthma Society of Ireland at: www.asthmasociety.ie 
© Copyright, Highland Landscapes, Letterkenny, 2008.