Chelsea Flower Show

The Royal College of Pathologists take up the Allergy Cause. Michelle Berriedale-Johnson checked out what they had to offer.

Despite the enthusiasm of many garden designers, after last years Chelsea Flower Show, for putting together a garden especially for allergy sufferers, finding the funding (horrendously large) needed to create such a garden defeated us all in the time available. However, we are delighted that the Royal College of Pathologists, inspired by the number of people who had visited their stand last year to ask about allergies, stepped in.

A very informative stand in the Lifelong Learning Centre included background information about allergies and treatments, and some useful ‘do’s and ‘don’t’s when both trying to set up a low allergen garden and minimise hay fever reactions. We have reproduced their list of low allergen plants below. Their tips include:

• Not allowing the grass to flower, not lying on it and persuading someone else to mow it.
• Staying indoors and keeping windows closed at peak pollen times: 7-11am & 4-8pm
• Always wearing sunglasses or glasses when you are outside if your eyes are affected.
• Changing your clothes and washing your hair when you come indoors, getting someone else to brush your pets as they will carry pollen on their fur, and not line drying your clothes.

They also offered a useful pollen calendar - just in case your nose has not already told you! March and April are the worst for tree pollens (hazel, yew, elm, alder, willow, ash, poplar and birch) although birch also runs into May, when it is joined by oak and pine.The plane tree season is longest (from March through to the end of June) but its high release period is the beginning of May - just to coincide with Chelsea Flower Show! Lime trees are worst in June and July. Grass runs from April to September (worst in June), oil seed rape is worst in May.

To find out more about the stand and the Royal College check in at

Those who want to know more about low allergen gardening should look for
Creating a low allergen garden by Lucy Huntington and Safe Sex in the Garden and Other Propositions for an Allergy-Free World by Tom Ogren.

Tom is a Californian landscape designer from a family of hay fever sufferers. In his book he berates town planners and garden designers alike for insisting on planting ‘tidy’ male trees and shrubs which do not drop fruits and berries all over the pavements and lawns but which do use the wind to distribute vast amounts of potentially allergic pollen via the atmosphere. Female plants, anxious to be fertilised by as many seeds and spores as possible, will scoop the pollen out of the atmosphere rather than dispersing it. Choosing plants who use insects or bees to do their pollinating for them will also minimise airborne pollen, as will avoiding grasses which also use the wind to spread their seed.

Low Allergen Plants
• Bleeding Heart (Dicentra spp)
• Broom (Genista lydia)
• Bugle (Ajuga reptans)
• Bizzy Lizzie (Impatiens)
• Choysia (Choisya ternata)
• Columbine (Aquilegia vulgaris)
• Coral Bells (Heuchara Sanguinea)
• Cotoneaster (Cotoneaster spp)
• Cranesbill (Geranium spp)
• Day Lily (Hemerocallis hybrids)
• Dead Nettle (Lamium spp)
• Fibrous Roote Begonia (Begoniacaea)
• Geum (Geum chiloense)
• Hebe (Hebe spp)
• Lady’s Mantle (Alchemilla mollis)
• Lobelia (Lobelia erinus)
• Love in a mist (Nigella damascena)
• Masterwort (Astrantia major)
• Meadow Rue (Thalictrum aquilegiifolium)
• Pentemon hybrids
• Periwinkle (Vinca minor)
• Plantain lily (Hosta spp)
• Poppies (Papaver spp)
• Prunus x cistena
• Scabious (Scabiosa caucasica)
• Sea Holly (Eryngium x tripartitum)
• Siberian Iris (Iris sibirica)
• Snapdragon (Antirrhinum majus)
• Strawberry Tree (Arbutus unedo)
• Willow leafed Pear (Pyrus salicifolia)

Most hay fever sufferers use antihistamine medication to counteract the effect of the pollen but this may not agree with all allergy sufferers and can make one feel very drowsy and dopey. One alternative that we wrote about last year and have had excellent reports of since is something called Nasaleze. An inert cellulose powder, you just puff it up your nose and it forms the kind of protective coating on the inside of the nostrils that one’s mucus is meant to form. Very easy to use and with no side effects, it certainly seems worth a try. You can find it in some pharmacies or order direct from Nasaleze at One bottle should last 5 - 6 weeks and costs £7.95 + P&P.

Articles on allergen-free gardening

First published in 2004


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