As you might know I’m a big fan of gardening (I have my own backyard garden) and often times appreciate other people’s gardens. So when I heard about Tom Ogren’s book, The Allergy-Fighting Garden I was immediately interested even though I myself don’t suffer from allergies. Here’s a short interview I did with the author.
Hanna: “So, Tom, you’ve written this cool new book, The Allergy Fighting Garden. Would I be right to assume you’ve got pretty bad allergies yourself?”
Tom: “No, not really, Hanna. I don’t have allergies, or asthma, but my wife, Yvonne does.”
Hanna: “So, you got into this work to help your wife?”
Tom: “Yes, exactly. We had just bought a new house and I thought it would be great if I could landscape it so that nothing in our yards would trigger Yvonne’s allergies. I thought it would be pretty simple, but boy was I wrong! At first I tried to buy books on this, but there were none. Once a university research librarian asked me exactly what I was searching for. I told her any material on allergy-free gardens.
“She laughed when I said this and told me, “But it’s the gardens that cause the allergies!”
I told her, “Some plants do, and some do not, and I want to know the difference.” That was some 30 years ago now.
Hanna: “Did the things you learned and the way you landscaped your yards, did this actually help your wife?”
Tom: “Great question. She still has allergies, but they’re not nearly as bad now. And I’m happy to say, she hasn’t had an asthma attack in more than a decade now. It does work.”
Hanna: “You created something called OPALS®; could you tell us a little about that?”
Tom: “Sure. OPALS®, which is an abbreviation of Ogren Plant Allergy Scale, is an easy to use, 1-10 scale where all landscape plants are ranked according to their allergy potential. #1 is the best, the most allergy-free; #10 is the worst, the most allergenic. In the book, all of the thousands of plants are ranked like this, so even if you know almost no horticulture, it really doesn’t matter.”
Hanna: “Could you give us a few tips on how to avoid the worst plants? Those super allergenic #10’s?”
Tom: “Sure. Lots of landscape plants, trees and shrubs, are males, grown as clones. Landscapers like these male plants because they don’t make any seeds. The problem with them is that they all make pollen, loads of pollen. If you look at a juniper bush in a nursery and there are no juniper berries (seeds) on it, it’s probably because it is a male. Don’t buy it; it’ll pollute your yard.
“If you see any kind of tree being sold and it is supposedly “seedless” or “fruitless,” again, don’t buy it. It is an allergenic male tree and in your own yard it will end up making you or your family feel bad.”
Hanna: “So, if the male plants are allergenic, what about female plants? There are female plants, right?”
Tom: “Sure there are, and female plants are pollen-free. They produce no pollen and they trap pollen from nearby male plants. The more female plants you have in your landscape, the more allergy-friendly it will be.”
Hanna: “The Allergy Fighting Garden, it would be a great book for homeowners to own and use. Who else would benefit from reading it?”
Tom: “Allergists are using it more and more, as are landscape professionals, city planners, public health people, and horticulture teachers. Many health coaches too, are finding it very useful.”
Hanna: “Where can people find your book? Is it in libraries? Is it sold in stores?”
Tom: “Most libraries have The Allergy Fighting Garden now, or they can get it for you if you request it. It is in some book stores and on many internet books sellers. Perhaps the easiest way to get a copy is from Amazon.com. The link for that is: HERE
Hanna: “Thanks for being here, Tom, and sharing with us.”
Tom: “My pleasure, Hanna!”