Pollen season

I don’t know what it’s like where you are, but here in central North Carolina, it’s pollen season.

We skipped from winter to summer last week, and now that the oak leaves are filling out, pollen strings are everywhere. Even in my header.

Every morning I come out of the house to find a very fine layer of pollen on everything.

pollen car

Sedum ‘Postman’s Pride’ has a sickly greenish tinge.

pollen sedum

Venturing outside means becoming a pollen sponge. Any exposed surface, whether hands, hair, or clothing, collects the stuff and tracks it indoors. Walking through the garden, my feet turn yellow. I understand that people everywhere cope with pollen. My question is: Is it common, elsewhere in the world, to have visibility reduced because the pollen is so thick? I looked out the window the other day and could actually see clouds of it, raining down.

Rain fell briefly overnight. We get very excited about rain this time of year, because it washes everything clean, if only for a few minutes.

Pollen washing off my neighbor’s driveway.

Thomas Leo Ogren wrote a fantastic book called Allergy-Free Gardening: The Revolutionary Guide to Healthy Landscaping in which he argues that the landscaping and horticulture industries (and by extension, the gardening public) have contributed to an increase in allergy problems in recent years by promoting and overplanting male varieties of plants, which don’t have messy fruits but do produce copious amounts of pollen. Ogren conducted an astonishing amount of research on the pollen-producing habits of a wide variety of plants: the duration of pollen release; the shape of the flowers; the shape, stickiness, and weight of the pollen granules themselves. All his research culminated in his developing a scale called OPALS (Ogren Plant Allergy Scale), that ranks plants by their likelihood of triggering an allergic reaction in an individual.

Ogren also discusses the value of “right plant, right place,” in reducing the need for insecticides and herbicides, many of which can trigger allergies. The book is a fascinating read and one that can help individual gardeners tailor their own environments to ameliorate their symptoms. For myself, I learned to try to select female varieties of trees and shrubs when possible. I’ve decided what OPALS ranking I can live with in my own garden, and picked up some cultural practices than can limit my exposure to certain high-pollen producers. A bonus for those who select shrubs and perennials for their low OPALS values: Many of them, not coincidentally, are attractive to bees, hummingbirds, and butterflies.

Here is a link to Ogren’s website and further information about reducing allergy problems via smart gardening practices.



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