Gardening Tips > June > Planting an Allergy Friendly Garden

Planting an Allergy Friendly Garden

At this year’s RHS Chelsea Flower Show, Hannah picked up a leaflet all about ‘Planting an Allergy Friendly Future’ after viewing Birmingham City Council’s ‘A Quiet Afternoon in the Cloud Cuckoo Valley’ garden. The garden was celebrating the whimsical world of the famous cartoonist and inventor Rowland Emett and was made up of plants with low allergy credentials.

Celebrating the work of Rowland Emett at RHS Chelsea 2017

Celebrating the work of Rowland Emett at RHS Chelsea 2017

With the hay fever season truly upon us, the plant team were intrigued to find out whether we could intervene in nature and actually plant a garden which significantly reduces the amount of pollen in the air therefore, giving our population of hay fever suffers a respite for Summer 2018!

As gardeners what do we already know about pollen…

  1. Male plants produce pollen
  2. Female plants do not produce pollen
  3. Female plants trap pollen from the males

So, in theory, by carefully selecting the plants that you are using to brighten up your garden, you can significantly reduce the amount of pollen in the air even during the months of May to July (the main high-risk periods.)  Even keen gardeners may get a little perplexed at this point so we investigated further…


Horticulturist, Thomas Ogren, has created a scale called OPALSTM which ranks the allergen on a scale of 1 (least allergenic) to 10 (most allergenic).  He has written a book about planting for an allergy free garden and the Birmingham City Council garden at the Chelsea Flower Show used OPALSTM labels within their magnificent exhibit to demonstrate each plant’s allergen rating.

Birmingham City Council Gold OPALs Image

OPALS labels within the exhibition at RHS Chelsea 2017

We’ve picked a few of our favourite low allergen producing plants to bring colour and to reduce the pollen in your garden.

Pansies and Violas, both rated OPALTM 1, are great for bringing colour to beds and hanging baskets through the winter months but they can continue to flower right through to early June.

Perrywood Grown Pansies

Perrywood Grown Pansies

Dianthus “Sweet Williams” rank between 1 and 3 on the scale depending on whether they are all female. Very easy to grow and quick to flower with re-bloom after deadheading, they are perfect for a summer sunny garden.

Dianthus 'Pikes Pink'

Dianthus ‘Pikes Pink’

Antirrhinum majus “Snapdragons” are hardy annual flowers that can be placed anywhere in the garden.  They also grow well in the winter and rate OPALSTM 1, so are one of the lowest allergen plants.  Or choose Salvia nemorosa ‘Caradonna’, which is a wonderful perennial bursting with purple colour and very attractive to bees and butterflies. It rates as OPALSTM score 1, and is perfect for edging or creating height in borders or planted individually in pots on your patio.

Salvia nemorosa ‘Caradonna’

Salvia nemorosa ‘Caradonna’

What else can do in your garden…

We would suggest planting a low allergen hedge around your garden which will bring some protection from the movement of pollen, for example: Berberis (OPALSTM score 3), Photinia (OPALSTM score 4), or Hawthorn (OPALSTM score 4)

We would also suggest you keep your lawn short and mow late afternoon as most lawn grasses release their pollen between 3am and 8am.

So if you are planning to create an allergy friendly garden, come and see one of our plant experts who will be able to give you more advice and guidance on what plants to choose and when to plant them!

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