Very rarely do we come across an idea that is both exceptionally good and revolutionary in its scope; the book The Allergy-Fighting Garden
by Thomas Leo Ogren is such an idea. I was a practicing allergist for more than fifty years. In the past I often advised people to avoid the “toxic” highly allergenic shrubs and trees, but my knowledge of botany was limited. Today, allergies are given short shrift in American medical schools. Students preparing for a medical career will receive only one or two lectures on the subject during a four-year course of intense study.
Allergies cause a huge amount of pain and suffering. There are many medical treatments for allergies, and none of them is perfect. All of them have side effects. The very best treatment for allergy is to avoid the offending substance. But when the state or city park department plants trees for shade, for example, they can end up causing intense suffering because of their poor choice of trees. Homeowners, too, unknowingly make poor choices and cause themselves years of allergy as they surround their houses with allergy-causing trees, shrubs, and lawns.
However, before this book, if you wanted to plant a landscape with allergy-free plants, you had few places to turn to for advice. Some landscapers knew that fruitless mulberries and olive trees caused allergy, but that was about it. The Allergy-Fighting Garden
is therefore a greatly needed book. Several things especially make this work so valuable. Ogren’s allergy scale, assigning all plants a simple 1 to 10 allergy ranking, is a marvelous idea. All plants are not created equal. Certain plants cause no allergy, some cause very little, and some cause a great deal of suffering. Ogren’s allergy scale addresses this problem head-on.
Another fine idea in this book is the reasoning about the dioecious species of plants. Dioecious (separate-sexed) plants cause far more than their share of allergies, because the male plants usually produce so much airborne pollen. These species, which include many common plants such as willows, ash, and maples, are often described as the worst allergy offenders. What Ogren figured out here is that the flip side is also true. If the males are the worst, then the females are the best! This is a simple idea, perhaps, but up until now no one has really addressed it. The Allergy-Fighting Garden
should be on the shelf of every serious gardener. All allergy specialists would be wise to own a copy, and certainly the book should be in the library of every nursery and municipal park department. Perhaps most important of all, this text should be required reading for every college student of landscape design or horticulture. Ogren has made a valuable contribution to our good health, and now it is up to us to put the information to work.
David A. Stadtner, MD
Excerpted from The Allergy-Fighting Garden by Thomas Leo Ogren. Copyright © 2015 by Thomas Leo Ogren. Excerpted by permission of Ten Speed Press, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.