Low-Allergen Garden Design

Low-Allergen Garden Design

How do you create a garden packed with flowers, trees and shrubs when the garden must also be designed to be low-allergen?

Bramley Apple Garden Design discovered that with careful plant selection and consideration to both hard and soft landscaping, it is possible to design a beautiful garden that can be enjoyed all year round, and reduce the amount of airborne pollen which triggers hay fever and asthma.

Pollen is transferred from male to female parts of the flower usually by wind or insects. Airborne pollen is particularly fine and is carried freely in the breeze. The pollen that’s picked up and deposited by insects is generally stickier and heavier and less likely to irritate. As a general rule wind-pollinated plants should be avoided and opt instead for flowers where insects have to search for nectar such as trumpet shaped blooms or double rather than single flowers.

Key Design Solutions

With a small budget, lawn is usually a cost-effective surface choice and the green of turf sets off the hard landscaping and planting. In a low-allergen garden, a good substitute for a traditional lawn is artificial turf being both low-allergen and low maintenance.

Position dining and seating terraces in the centre of the garden to provide good circulation and plant scented flowers to enjoy the fragrance such as lavender and Rosa ‘Margaret Merrill’ to attract the pollinators. Roses are a good low-allergen selection as their petals enclose the pollen, although it’s worth noting that plants with a strong fragrance can affect some people so should be included with caution.

Plant Selection

Whilst wind pollinated grasses should be avoided,  Verbena bonariensis and Gaura lindheimeri ‘Whirling butterflies’ are a good substitute, creating movement and an ephemeral quality to the planting.

When selecting trees for the garden, trees that produce blossom and attract insects are the ideal solution. Malus x zumi ‘Golden Hornet’, espalier fruit trees, Cercis canadensis ‘Forest Pansy’ or Prunus ‘Amanagowa’ provide spring and autumn colour and won’t outgrow a smaller garden.

Other factors to consider when selecting plants, as advised by Allergy UK, are to avoid male dioecious species, ferns or other species that produce spores. In particular consider alternatives to the ever-popular birch with its striking white bark, which produces the most potent pollen.

There is a useful guide called the Ogren Plant Allergy Scale (OPALS) which is the first plant-allergy ranking system used by the USA department of agriculture. OPALS rates plants 1-10 with 1 lowest in allergy and ‘10’ highest.

Apple Tree Blog 4 Bramley Apple Design

What to do about a much-loved tree that has outgrown the garden?

A much loved tree

Our Bramley apple tree was a gift from my sister on our wedding day. It grew along with our family, providing the filling for many an apple crumble over the years and my young son became an expert at climbing amongst it’s branches to pick the fruit.

Twenty years later and the tree was huge, almost shading our south facing garden completely and if I’m honest I couldn’t give the glut of apples away.

I’ve become much more ruthless in my garden, plants have two chances, but this was different, it was a wedding present.

After much soul-searching we bit the bullet and in our 20th anniversary year the tree was removed, save a section of trunk to be carved into an apple.

Along with removing a diseased crab apple (nearly as much sentimental angst, memories of jars of homemade crab apple jelly etc) the garden is transformed.

So much light! New trees have been planted, a Pyrus calleryana ‘Chanticleer’, which works hard in a small garden with blossom in spring and stunning autumn colour, a small standard Ligustrum lucidum ‘Variegata’ for evergreen structure and I’ve taken the opportunity to rejuvenate the planting and try out new cultivars.

Inspired by the changes last year, this month the enormous conifer (another mistake) has made some excellent kindling and the orange stems of Salix integra ‘Hakuro Nishiki’ shine proudly in it’s place. This will be pollarded each year to manage the shape and provide fresh stems for the brightest winter colour and pink spring growth.

The change is remarkable and I’m totally in love with the garden again. The moral of the story; gardens are meant to evolve. Don’t battle year after year trying to manage a plant that is in the wrong place, if it can’t be moved, take the plunge and embrace the opportunity to try something new.

Spring Garden blog Bramley Apple Design SL

The Smell of Spring

Spring Garden Designs

Is it the longer days, the sun beginning to warm the earth or buds beginning to break that I can smell in the air? Even on cold days that are more akin to midwinter, something’s changed. For me, spring brings with it anticipation, renewed enthusiasm and a determination to savour every minute of the new season.

Spring flowers follow a familiar and comforting rhythum, snowdrops and aconites, iris reticulata, Narcissus ‘Tete a Tete’ and crocus followed by an explosion of daffodils, tulips, primroses and cowslips. The annual visits to the fritillary fields, the bluebell woods and enjoying the scent of Narcissus poeticus on the breeze, take me through the months of Spring.

Spring gardens can be designed under trees where the leaves shade the area later in the year, keeping the ground cool during the summer months. Try Anemone nemorosa planted en masse combined with bluebells as their flowering time overlaps.

Swathes of bulbs can be planted in grass creating a mass of colour; crocus, naturalising daffodils, camassia (amazing display at RHS Wisley) and snowdrops create a striking effect for a few short weeks before dying back down in the grass.

In a small garden pots crammed full of bulbs can be brought out into the limelight when they are in full bloom and then swapped for the next display, providing continuous pleasure from early February right through to May. The bulbs can be lifted as they die back and replaced with summer bedding, perennials or grasses for colour right through the summer.

I like to bring a few cut stems of Spring flowering shrubs indoors to brighten up the kitchen. Favourites are the twisted stems of Corylus avellana ‘Contorta’ dripping with catkins, the scented flowers of Viburnum x bodnantense ‘Dawn’ or the cheerful yellow of Forsythia x intermedia ‘Lynwood Variety’.