[Skip to Content]

Allergy Free Gardening

Allergy Free Gardening
Allergy-Free New York - New York Times
Too Much Pollen? Blame the Males - All Things Considered
Safe Sex in the Garden - Weekend Edition
Corner Graphic

If you are suffering from allergies, tree and plant pollen may be the reason.


Purchase Tom's Books

Planting an Allergy Free Garden

I've now been writing and publishing about allergy free gardens for over a decade, and during this time an enormous number of websites have copied all or some of my material, 99% of the time without ever contacting me. Sometimes the results have been disastrous, to say the least. Consumer Reports, a magazine I used to hold in high regard, did an article on allergy free gardens, used much of my material, often word for word…but still managed to mix it all up and give erroneous advice. The editors who wrote the article never bothered to call me (even though my phone number is listed), or to email me, even though my email is right there on my website.

As the hundreds of writers and editors who have contacted me for articles over the past decade would tell you, I have always been available to the press for interviews, and have never turned down a phone call or email interview with any writer.

The problem with this sloppy "journalism," is that it leads to the spreading of bad advice, to the publishing material that just isn't correct. It is bad enough to steal from another writer, and it is bad enough to print erroneous material as factual, but considering that the people who read my work, read it because they or their loved ones have allergies or asthma, and they want to avoid these problems…the wrong information for them can be disastrous.

For example, take a look at this:

From AC, Associated Content's website:

"Okay, so you've planted male trees and shrubs, double flowered annuals, and disease-resistant perennials. Now it's time to make sure that only invited guests are present in your allergy-free garden."

The above line is actually the first thing that popped up on my screen today when I did a Google search for: allergy free garden.
the problem with it? Well, for starters, it says: ""Okay, so you've planted male trees and shrubs." (As though this were a good thing!)

Now, honestly, anyone who has ever read any of my books or articles and understood them, even a little bit, would tell you NOT to plant male trees and shrubs! Male trees and shrubs are exactly what you do NOT want in your garden, since they are the ones that produce the most allergenic pollen. What you DO want in your allergy free garden is female plants…. again, what you want is female plants, not male.

Normally I refrain from this sort of ranting, but I think I'll let it hang out a bit here today. When I first started researching allergy free gardens almost thirty years ago now, it wasn't on the radar anywhere at all…it was a non-subject; it did not exist. A decade ago if you did a Google for allergy free garden you got zip, nothing at all about allergy free gardens. It wasn't until Ten Speed Press first published my book, Allergy-Free Gardening in 2000 that Google ever picked up on it.

When I was doing my original research, looking for the most allergenic and the least allergenic landscape plants, I realized early on that the male plants of dioecious species (separate sexed species) always shed a great deal of highly allergenic pollen. I reasoned then, that if the plants in question were indeed separate-sexed, where one individual tree for example was a male, and another was a female…then that meant that female plants were the key. The female plants never produced any pollen at all; they were true, 100% pollen-free, allergy-free plants. I was the first to publish anything, anywhere, about this discovery. Another thing I discovered in my early research was that nationwide cities were planting millions of clonal male street trees. They were doing this because male trees don't produce any fruit or seeds. These highly allergenic male trees were being promoted as being "litter free" trees, often sold as "fruitless." No mention was made of the fact that they were triggering an epidemic of urban allergies and asthma.

Likewise, when I first started to write about the allergy potential of monoecious flowered trees (trees that have both separate male and female flowers on the same trees), and noted that with some of the monoecious species, such as Honeylocust, or Italian Cypress trees, that they flowered on separate branches…and that plant propagators were now growing allergenic male-only clones from these species as well (using only scion wood from the male branches)…this too, was the very first time anyone, anywhere, had written and published on this phenomena.

Today when I do a Google search using the terms: allergy free garden, an amazing: Results 1 - 10 of about 143,000,000 for allergy free garden. come up. If you do a Google for me, Tom Ogren, somewhat less than 130 thousand sites come up. What does this mean? I take it to mean that there are many millions of articles out there now about allergy free gardens than never mention my work, although most of them liberally plagiarize from it.

Years ago I used to write to complain to websites that used my material but never bothered to mention my name, the names of my books on allergies, or my website, but the problem has grown so large that I long ago gave up on this. The problem continues to grow rapidly, and honestly, I wouldn't mind if at least they got the information right. Every year now, for the last decade, there have been numerous new newspaper and magazine articles written about allergy free gardens, and many of the writers take the trouble to look me up, interview me, and then run their articles by me to fact check them before they publish them. These writers have my respect…when they put their name on the article they want it to be factual, to be correct.

If you Google (or do a Yahoo search) for the terms: allergy free garden, or allergy free gardening, or allergy free plants, or anything like that you will come up with a huge number of things to read, sites to visit. I ask readers to please discount any articles that do not make mention of my work. If you don't see my name on any article about allergy free gardening, or don't see something like: Published with permission from Thomas Ogren, Author of Allergy-Free Gardening …then please take what you're reading with the proverbial grain of salt.

I think it was last week when I realized just how bad the situation had finally gotten. I was doing some web searching for allergy free gardening, and what should I find, but a Wal-Mart health article posted about it. Wal-Mart, like so many of the others, had used my material, and had not even bothered to mention my name, my website, or the names of my books.

The Wal-Mart article (do a search for: Allergy-free gardening Wal-Mart and you'll find this stinker), like so many others, manages to swipe some of my very best advice, and then also manages to mix up the rest of it and gives some terrible advice. The Wal-Mart article claims that poinsettias and oleanders produce "massive amounts of pollen"…something that simply is NOT true at all. The article claims that lilies and wildflowers are highly allergenic, again, simply not true. At least though, they did not say to plant male trees.

Now then, I suppose when even mighty Wal-Mart itself is plagiarizing and ripping you off, then I suppose as a writer you've truly arrived. I guess it ought to feel good, but somehow it just does not.

Thanks for letting me get this off my chest.


Thomas Leo Ogren is the author of Allergy-Free Gardening, and also of Safe Sex in the Garden, both from Ten Speed Press in Berkeley, California. Allergy-Free Gardening is now published by Random House Publishers. Tom's own website is: www.allergyfree-gardening.com

image spacer image spacer
Copyright © 2024 Allergy Free Gardening
None of the articles or photographs on this site are to be used without permission. For permission, please contact the webmaster.

Affordable Website Design by Affordable Website Design