If nothing works and you don't want to try shots, consider Ogren's approach--replacing egregiously allergenic plants with less or nonallergenic ones. The theory behind his strategy: The pollen that's making you miserable is probably coming from your very own flora.
Sure, pollen can waft from your neighbor's towering birch tree into your yard. But most doesn't fall or float far from the tree (or shrub or flower). In one Dutch study, levels of birch and oak pollen were consistently highest closest to the trees.
To determine whether to axe an offending plant, follow these steps:
See an allergist. If you haven't already, get tested to find out if that elm or rose bush really is at the root of your misery. Ask the allergist about cross-reactions, Weber suggests. If you're allergic to birch pollen, for example, you may also react to alder, beech, hazel, and oak pollen.
Check your yard for allergy triggers. Now that you know what you're looking for, see if the culprit is in your yard. If you can't identify a tree, shrub, or flower, take a cutting to a local nursery or to your county's Cooperative Extension Service (find your local agent at www.csrees.usda.gov). "Or call a local college with a horticulture program, and pay a student to ID what's growing on your property," Ogren suggests.
Replace with care... If you've decided to remove a plant, choose a female replacement of a variety that doesn't trigger your sneezing. Male plants are the ones that produce pollen. (Staff at your local nursery should be able to distinguish one sex from the other.) Also, opt for a variety that ranks low on the OPALS scale (find it at www.allegra.com) because these plants are least likely to cause allergic reactions in others, including your partner, kids, guests, and neighbors.
...Or pay for a sex change. Got a stately male tree that's just too allergenic to keep? You don't have to settle for a spindly new replacement. A skilled nurseryman or arborist should be able to graft branches from a female tree onto the existing tree. In one season, the tree will change from a highly allergenic male to a pollen-free female. Expect to pay $50 an hour; a typical tree can be grafted in an hour or two.
Change Your Landscape
Making adjustments to the layout of your garden may be unavoidable. Here are some tips for how you can create a new allergy-free environment:
Load up on low-allergy plants. If you've got pollen allergies, your best bets are:
Flowers: Begonia, crocus, daffodil, iris, poppy, tulip, camellia, clematis, hollyhock, impatiens, nasturtium, pansy, peony, fully double sunflowers, zinnia
Trees and shrubs: Azalea; dogwood; fir; fruit trees such as peach, plum, pear, persimmon; female versions of ash, Chinese pistache tree, female juniper, yew, yew pine, poplar, box elder, some maples, sour gum, willow
Keep mold at bay. Because mold can cause allergic reactions, keep compost bins--a prime mold habitat--away from the house and garden.
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