The title of this book grabbed me right away. A book about gardening, you say? For people with allergies?
The author is a horticulturalist with an agricultural science background and invented the scale by which plants are rated for allergenicness. Seems legit.
I learned quite a few new things reading this book, one of which is that male plants produce more pollen than female plants. THANKS, MEN. Also, back in the 1940s, apparently some (male, I’m guessing) brains at the USDA decided to encourage people to grow male trees rather than a mix of female and male, because female trees produce seeds, seedpods, and fruit, and those are too messy to be convenient in carefully-groomed communities (we’re talking about types of trees where the sexes are separate – which NOT ALL TREES are). Male trees also produce more pollen than trees with both parts in the same flowers, so this preponderance of male trees made for extra beaucoup pollen everywhere. (They, along with cloning, also made for a horribly heterogeneous tree population, so when things like Dutch Elm disease came through, it was way more devastating than it might have been. GREAT.) (Also, birds and butterflies like to eat, you know, fruit, so having no female trees means having a lot fewer beneficial creatures around. SUPER.) Back to the dearth of female trees, which, did you know? actually COLLECT and remove pollen from the air, in addition to not producing it themselves. So not only are these too-numerous male trees dropping buckets of pollen all over the place, there aren’t enough female trees to – what’s new, right? – clean up their mess. Okay, even I’m getting a little tired of talking about this Tree Patriarchy. Let’s acknowledge that most of the time when we decide to mess with an ecosystem, we don’t consider the possible consequences and we end up screwing things up in ways we never imagined. Moving on.
You might say to yourself, but wait – don’t we need pollen so pollinators can do their jobs? Yes, we do. This book is about reducing the most allergenic pollens, not all pollens. We’ve seen what problems an all-or-nothing situation creates, haven’t we? The most allergenic pollens come from trees and shrubs, it seems, so a lot of perennial and annual plants are probably fine for many allergy sufferers. Which is great news! Because pollinators love those smaller plants and we love pollinators. This book goes into detail about how to identify the plants in your landscape as well as giving recommendations for how to choose what to add to your own yard and garden. It also gives suggestions for helping to de-allergen your home space, such as planting an allergy-blocking hedge on the windward side of your property (really the hedge will be collecting the pollen not blocking it). I am all about a property-border hedge, so this makes me even more antsy for us to be in our next home and planning our landscape!
Most of the book is a listing of details about various plants. It includes their allergy rating as well as information about the plant and for some, color photographs. The back of the book includes a glossary of horticultural terms, lists of recommended books and websites, a pollen calendar for common species, and the current USDA plant hardiness zone map.
This is a book I’m certainly going to be using for reference often. It’s got a ton of great information on a wide variety of plants and, especially since we will hopefully be the owners of a new garden/yard soon, we’ll have lots of planning and plant-identifying for which to use it. I love gardening books and I’ve read a lot of them, but none have taught me as much about plant sex as this book. And how many gardening books have you read that contain the phrase, “Feminists, we need you!”
Full disclosure: reviewed from a complimentary copy provided by Blogging for Books.