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Saturday - April 18, 2009

From: Fairfield, CT
Region: Northeast
Topic: Erosion Control, Grasses or Grass-like, Shrubs
Title: Non-allergenic landscape in Fairfield, CT
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I live in Fairfield, CT and need to have a non-allergenic landscape. Can you please list plants, ground covers, and trees/shrubs that would be beautiful, and help in this critical situation? The landscape area is my front yard and happens to be a large steep slope. A very low maintenance landscape would be extremely helpful. Thank you.

ANSWER:

We certainly understand your need for a non-allergenic landscape, but there really is no such thing. You could pave your property over, and when you stepped outside, the pollen from trees next door or hundreds of miles away would be in the air, and you have to breathe. As you no doubt already know, different people are sensitive to different things. Here in Central Texas, one of the biggest offenders is Juniperus ashei (Ashe's juniper), a native tree that grows everywhere. In the winter, beginning about Christmas, people who live in homes without any kind of yard can still have have runny noses, red eyes and miserable headaches, because the pollen is everywhere. And yet, did you know there are actually people not allergic to Toxicodendron radicans (eastern poison ivy)? Since we are gardeners, not allergists, we will refer you to some websites that have suggestions that might help. And we'll try to find some plants native to Connecticut that will address your steep slope, but beyond that, about all we can do is offer our sympathy. We sneeze all the time, too, and have learned that there is no "off" season for allergies. 

Virginia Cooperative Extension Gardening and Your Health: Plant Allergens

yardsmarts How to Eliminate Plant Allergens in Your Yard

Fluvanna County (Virginia) Master Gardeners Plant Allergies

Another possible source of information closer to home is the University of Connecticut Extension Office for Fairfield County.  They could have some more localized materials on plants native to your area that are known to be large producers of allergens, and what season is the worst.

A steep slope is always a challenge, even without the complications of allergies.  Erosion is a big concern, and the most-recommended plant for erosion control is grasses. Grasses have long fibrous roots that grab and hold the soil, some of them are attractive year round, and require little mainenance. We realize that grasses are some of the biggest offenders to allergies, but many of the grasses cited as such are non-natives to North America. In addition to grasses, we chose some fairly low-growing shrubs, some of which will form thickets, that can help to stabilize your slope. Again, we avoided some of the plants known to produce a lot of allergens, like members of the Juniperus family. All of these plants are native not only to North America but to Connecticut, and are commercially available. If you have difficulty locating some chosen plants, go to our National Suppliers Directory, type in your town and state in the "Enter Search Location" box and you will get a list of native plant nurseries, seed suppliers and landscape and environment consultants.

Native shrubs for a slope in Connecticut 

Comptonia peregrina (sweet fern)

Gaultheria procumbens (eastern teaberry)

Ilex glabra (inkberry)

Vaccinium macrocarpon (cranberry)

Grasses and grass-like plants

Bouteloua curtipendula (sideoats grama)

Bouteloua gracilis (blue grama)

Carex blanda (eastern woodland sedge)

Elymus canadensis (Canada wildrye)

 

 

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