It’s the scourge of gardeners who prize a perfect lawn, but who knew that the dandelion could be the cause of so much misery for those who suffer from hay fever and other allergies too?
'Everyone loves the start of early summer, but warmer weather can bring dread to those who suffer badly with hay fever, which can develop at any age and cause very annoying symptoms,' says Holly Palmer, spokesperson at Garden Buildings Direct. 'Dandelions look harmless, but these weeds are one of the worst culprits.'
So exactly why should we be finding out how to get rid of dandelions in a lawn if we're a hay fever sufferer?
Dandelion hay fever warning
Dandelions are wind-pollinators. This means their flowers produce small grains of pollen that are dispersed by the wind. A lot of plants are pollinated by bees, but others – like dandelions – rely on pollen being distributed by the wind for fertilization to take place.
'Although bees also pollinate flowers such as dandelions, it’s the small grains of pollen dispersed by the wind that are the worst culprits when it comes to hay fever,' explains Charles Walton, CEO of garden and outdoor living retailer BillyOh.
'And whilst dandelions have quite heavy pollen, it’s actually the seeds we blow away when playing with dandelion clocks and they can give hay fever sufferers a hard time.'
Hay fever-free gardening
As well as removing dandelions before the seeds start to disperse on the wind, experts have further tips for how to avoid your garden making hay fever worse.
Garden Building Direct's Holly Palmer says other wind-pollinated weeds such as creeping thistle and ragwort have a bad reputation for causing hay fever symptoms: 'Because of this, it is best to stay on top of weeding and remove the culprits before they can flower.'
Along with learning how to get rid of weeds efficiently and digging up the dandelions ASAP, Holly recommends planting sneeze-free insect-pollinated blooms such as petunias, magnolias and hardy fuschias.
'These can all add beauty and color to your gardens without causing lots of pollen in the air,' she says. 'When choosing plants for your garden, stick to insect-pollinated flowers where possible, as their pollen is heavy and falls to the ground, whereas wind-pollinated flowers cause much more pollen to float around in the air.'
Jayne Dowle is an award-winning freelance gardening, homes and property writer who writes about everything from swimming ponds to skyscraper apartments, for publications including Sunday Times Home, Times Bricks & Mortar, Grand Designs, House Beautiful and The Spectator. Awarded the Garden Journalist of the Year accolade at the Property Press Awards in 2021, she has a degree in English Language and Literature from the University of Oxford and a lifelong love of homes, interiors and gardens. Her first memories include planting potatoes with her grandfather and drawing houses. Her own garden - her fourth - at home in a 1920s house in Yorkshire, is south-facing and on the side of a valley. It’s a constant challenge
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