The Allergy-Fighting Garden by Thomas Leo Ogren (A book review)

When planning your garden at home, there are many details to take into account.  You need to pay attention to things like amount of sun, rain fall, average temperatures, length of growing season, and space.  You may also want to take into account flowering plants versus ever greens, height of plants compared to those around them, ease of care, and whether the plants are annuals or perennials.

When I worked in the urban forestry, we would also have to take into account the space needed for roots, any damage it might do to under ground utilities, the maintenance in upkeep (dropping of leaves, fruit, and limbs), height clearance underneath for vehicles if planted near parking lots or roads, scents of fruits or flowers, whether there were thorns or other dangerous attributes, and if the plant was a native, non-native or a non-native invasive plant.  There was a lot to consider when making selections.

Whether you are planning for your yard, as a part of your job, for a local volunteer project or to help out a neighbor, to help make the decisions easier there are often commonly used plants in your area that are recommended.  These are plants that tend to do well in your area (right zone, rainfall, etc.) and are popular with local gardeners.  They are also plants that local nurseries either grow or can obtain.  This does not mean that they are the best for the garden or location you are looking to plant in, only the most readily available.

In beginning to read The Allergy-Fighting Garden by Thomas Ogren, I assumed it would refer to flower gardens only, something along the lines of a botanical garden.  What I found pleasantly surprised me and made me realize some mistakes I had made in the past.  What I found was a very applicable, easy to understand case for considering not only the attributes listed above, but also those that affect our health and that of those around us.

My husband and one kid are affect more by allergies than myself and our other son.  However, we all have some degree of reaction.  Until now, I assumed it had more to do with the dirt in the air (from farmers plowing fields) than anything else, or with me spending time around so many trees in the fall.  After all, it is not like our house is surrounded by a  yard full of blooming flowers.  What I learned is that there may be other, larger sources of allergens and there is something I can potentially do about it.

The first 50 pages of The Allergy-Fighting Garden explain more about why allergies have become so prevalent in society today, what lead to the increase from several decades ago, and how we can go about correcting or reducing the effects.  It also gives a brief over view of how plants work, an important piece of knowledge in being able to understand how to counter their natural process.

The next 176 pages lists plants in alphabetical order, by their scientific names, giving a description of each and how they contribute or aide in the reduction of allergies.  While this section is not something that I will sit down and read straight through, it is a great reference resource for the future as I look to add to the landscaping around our house.  It will also be useful if I am ever in a position again to recommend plants for specific locations.

The biggest lesson I took away from The Allergy-Fighting Garden was that something as simple as planting a female plant, as opposed to a male plant, could make the difference between an allergic reaction and no reaction at all.  The explanations were such that a lay person, with even a minimum understanding of plants, would be able to pick up this book and come away understanding the connections between the plants in the landscapes around us and the amount of allergies experienced by those who come in contact with them.

Not only does Thomas Ogren show you how to plant so you can reduce your allergies, but also how you can fight those that might be around you.  The section on hedges and how to care for them is very  helpful.  As one who has lived in both the country and in the city, I can attest to how different each setting can be when it comes to landscaping and air quality.  When you live in cities, towns, and suburbs, the assortment of plants in a given area can be very  high.  Each person has their own idea of what would be good to grow.  Each garden and home has a different purpose for planting their specific horticultural choices.  When you can not change them, he gives you a way to atleast try and decrease their affects on the air quality in your home, office, or yard.  It truly is a fight against allergies from the garden.

The Allergy-Fighting Garden was an enlightening read and something that has added to my understanding of the natural world around us.  I would recommend this book to anyone who is dealing with or taking care of someone with allergies, or who is in charge of landscaping on any scale.  Being health conscious does not apply to food and exercise only, but also to creating an environment that aides in keeping us health instead of making us sick.


I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.