Q. How can I create a bee-friendly garden that doesn’t trigger my hayfever?

Beat summer sneezes with low-allergen plants, says Louisa Gilhooly

Allergy garden design by Louisa Gilhooly

by Liz Potter |

Gardens bring joy and pleasure to millions of people, but for those of us who suffer from allergies (one in four people in the UK has hayfever and 5.4 million live with asthma) – it can be a different story. Plant pollen triggers a range of symptoms from a runny nose to itchy eyes, which can lead to months of medication and summer misery.

While it isn’t possible to do anything about the plants your neighbours cultivate or those growing in the wild, you can create a garden that’s less aggravating. Certain trees, shrubs and perennials are free from allergy-causing pollen, while others have heavy, coarse pollen that tends not to drift on the wind and is less likely to exacerbate hayfever symptoms.

If you are a sufferer, avoid wind-pollinated plants such as grasses and trees with catkin flowers because their pollen is tiny, light and easily inhaled. Opt instead for plants that are pollinated by insects, which produce heavier pollen that sticks to the insect rather than being dispersed on the breeze. Trees with attractive blossom including amelanchier, cornus and fruit trees are good choices, as are perennials with bell-shaped blooms such as foxgloves and penstemons, because the pollen is enclosed within the flower.

However, not all flowers trigger allergies. Modern hybrids, often the showiest double flowers, don’t tend to produce much pollen, so although these aren’t great for pollinators, they’re much less likely to cause problems for those of us with an allergy.

While heavily-scented flowers such as lilies and hyacinths don’t necessarily contain more pollen, their potent fragrance can trigger sneezing and asthma attacks.

One clever alternative to hayfever-triggering flowers is to focus on plants that produce attractive foliage instead. Contrasting leaf shapes and textures can create a really stunning effect without a flower in sight. Hostas, for instance, have dramatic ribbed leaves and although they do produce flowers in summer, these can be easily removed before they open.

By carefully choosing the right plants you can create a gorgeous summer garden full of surprise and delight, which doesn’t make you feel miserable.

A low allergy garden design with annotations
A low allergy garden design ©Garden Answers
Planting plan for low allergen garden and stylish shopping ideas
Planting plan for low allergen garden and stylish shopping ideas
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