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Safe Sex in the Garden and Other Propositions for an Allergy-Free World Paperback – March 1, 2004

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

•Forty years ago, only 5 percent of Americans suffered from allergies; today, that number has grown to a whopping 38 percent!

•ALLERGY-FREE GARDENING has sold over 10,000 copies.

About the Author

THOMAS LEO OGREN is a former landscape gardening instructor and nursery owner and is the creator of the Ogren Plant Allergy Scale (OPALSTM), the first plant-allergy ranking system now used by the USDA. He lives with his family in San Luis Obispo, California.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 213 pages
  • Publisher: Ten Speed Press (March 1, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1580083145
  • ISBN-13: 978-1580083140
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6.1 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #921,906 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Bio: Tom Ogren, San Luis Obispo, California

Thomas Leo Ogren has an MS in Agriculture/Horticulture from Cal Poly University. All his graduate work was on plant flowering systems and allergies. He taught horticulture and landscape gardening for 20 years and had his own radio show, "Tom Ogren's Wild World of Plants," on Public Radio in Minnesota. He has owned two nurseries and also dairy farmed for 8 years.

Tom's writing has been published in magazines such as Landscape Architecture, Women's Day, Earth Island Journal, Alternative Medicine, New Scientist, American Rose, California Landscaping, Pacific Horticulture, Pacific Coast Nurseryman, Wild Ones Journal, Smart Money, The Utne Reader, Der Spiegel, Second Wind, Garden Design, and Garden Gate. His research and writing has been called bold, innovative, important, and revolutionary.

Allergy-Free Gardening was his 3rd published book, and Safe Sex in the Garden his 4th. Both of these books have been reviewed worldwide in hundreds of publications, from the London Times in England to the Jerusalem Post, in Israel.

The Chelsea Garden show in England did an award-winning exhibit based on his research. Tom has twice been a guest on the Bay Area TV show, Henry's Garden, and has appeared numerous times on HGTV's "Smart Solutions." His work has been the focus of TV documentaries made by Toronto's City TV, and by The Discovery Channel. His work was featured on the CBS Evening News and he was also interviewed on National Public Radio's Morning Edition and on NPR's All Things Considered.

The Garden Writers of America nominated Allergy-Free Gardening as "The Most Important New Garden Book of the Year."

Ten Speed Press published Tom's next book, Safe Sex in the Garden, in March of 2003. In spring of 2004 Time Warner Books published his book on Lawns.

Tom has been researching landscape plants and allergies for over twenty years. The Canadian and American Lung Associations, New Zealand Arborist Association, local asthma coalitions, and the USDA Urban Foresters now use his research on allergies. Tom can be reached through his own website at

Am pleased to add something new to this little bio! Ten Speed Press and Random House Publishers will be publishing my newest book, The Allergy Fighting Garden, on 2/17/15. This is the result of many years of further research into allergies and landscape plants. I've been busy since I last posted on here, a decade ago. I've done allergy-plant research and given talks all over New Zealand, the UK, on the Isle of Guernsey, in Israel, and from coast to coast across Canada. I even managed to get asked to write an op ed piece for the New York Times....please see:

I recently contributed a chapter on allergy/asthma prevention through smarter landscaping, for a new public health textbook on nature and human health, to be published in 2015 by Oxford University Press.
I've also been working with the California Department of Public Health, helping to draft a new 7 Year Plan to combat asthma. My contributions all deal with urban forestry and allergy prevention.
I've also become part of a new nonprofit group that is advocating for the rights of people with allergies. Do check them out:

I'd also invite you to drop in on my own website, one I've had now (with no advertisements or pop ups ever) for almost 15 years now. It's a good way to contact me via email, and I do answer all email from readers. Please see:

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By "naomiogren2009" on May 4, 2003
Format: Paperback
I have allergies and I found this book fascinating! I heard the author, Tom Ogren, interviewed on NPR's Weekend Edition with Linda Werthheimer. After hearing that interview I immediately wanted to read this book. It was every bit as good as I expected, better. It is a very clearly written book, but there is so much new information in it that I may have to read it three or four times for it all to sink in.
The title of this book comes from the discovery that male plants, especially male street trees, are raining allergenic pollen on us all. Male plants are used since they don't make seeds. Female plants, which are all pollen-free, are shunned. The chapter on "How to tell the boys from the girls," is great!
In some ways it reminds me a bit of The Botany of Desire, another book that mixes horticulture and health. I'm also going to buy the author's first book, Allergy-Free Gardening, a book I've heard nothing but praise for. In Safe Sex in the Garden there are many tips for living allergy-free. The horticulture is excellent too and it is completely clear that the author is a botanist of considerable standing. I looked him up on a Google search and found that he has landscaped an American Lung Association headquarters (in Richmond, VA), that the USDA urban foresters use his plant/allergy scale, and that county asthma coalitions hire him to produce pollen-free landscapes at elementary schools.
This a very fine book and I intend to recommend it to all my friends who garden, who enjoy exciting botany, and certainly to anyone with asthma or allergies.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Rachel Clark on April 30, 2003
Format: Paperback
I flat out love this book! It is a real kick, lots of neat stories about real life interactions between people and plants. This might not sound like zippy material but actually, it is.
I already owned Mr Ogren's earlier book, Allergy-Free Gardening, a book I simply can't do without. This one though, Safe Sex in the Garden, is more personal, very fun to read.
There is a wealth of information here that you can't find anywhere else. Nothing else is even close really. No one understands plant sex better than this author. I live in Berkeley, California, and around here it seems like quite a few people are discovering these books. At least half a dozen of my friends have now read this and all of us are crazy about it. It is an important book. I am a teacher, have allergies, and am very interested in urban ecology, the biology of the city. This fine book has expanded my understanding of horticulture, medicine, nature, and the manipulation of our landscapes. I recommend it to all teachers, to those interested in gardening, health, to anyone who wants to learn some new and different aspects about the world around us. And yes, after you read this book, like me, I'm sure there will be some changes made in your own yards. This book is too cool!
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Jason Wallach on April 27, 2003
Format: Paperback
Since I live in an apartment in San Francisco I don�t have yards or lawns or any of the more typical gardens, but I still found this book to be thought provoking and useful. On my balcony I have quite a few potted plants and I got rid of one of them as soon as I realized it was a male yew pine that produced pollen that was both allergenic and toxic. Inside the apartment we have houseplants and I will be making some changes here too. One of the chapters in Safe Sex in the Garden deals with indoor air quality and plants that either produce harmful VOCs (volatile organic compounds) or that consume these VOCs. The ficus tree I have been laboring for years to keep green, will go, replaced by something more benign.
In this book are good chapters on stress and allergies, on feng shui gardens, on going organic, animal allergies, smog trees, outdoor mold reduction, skin rashes, poisonous plants, OPALS, groundcovers, and of course, how to tell the boys from the girls. The boys, you see, produce pollen, while the girls, although they might be a bit messy at times, they never produce pollen. Pollen is a male thing, in fact pollen is the male plant�s version of, well, you figure it out!
I have long been interested in urban ecology and this book is easily one of the best and most important documents on the subject. The research that went into this book was not backed or directed by any large organization or university. This enabled the author, Ogren, to do it his own way, to look at things as they came. I think this explains a great deal as to why he discovered so much that so many others in medicine and horticulture so clearly missed. Read the chapter on the effects of global warming on pollen production, for example. Fascinating.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 8, 2003
Format: Paperback
This and Ogren's previous book, "Allergy-Free Gardening" should be on everyone's shelf, whether they garden or not. If you want to know why allergy incidence has quadrupled in the last few decades and asthma deaths have reach alarming numbers, this book explains it. Ogren's OPALS ranking scale can help us choose appropriate trees for our own gardens, plus he gives lists of recommended ground covers, poisonous plants, "super trees" and discusses pet allergies and all sorts of other relevant topics.
The book is well-written and easy to understand, even when your sinuses are clogged and your eyes are running.
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