Hands up, who loves the idea of naturalizing their garden but can’t allow the garden to go completely wild? As designers, many of my clients love the wild aesthetic and want to encourage wildlife and nature to thrive, but there is often confusion as to how to even begin a rewilding mission.
I’m often asked, “Isn’t rewilding simply allowing nature to do as it pleases?” and if that is indeed the case, then where are the aesthetes among us who seek some sort of formally designed beauty in the crave nature?
In theory, it’s true: restoring gardens is about allowing nature to do its thing. But the reality is that in urban gardening, this is a much more nuanced and subtle journey, a journey carefully considered to achieve a balance between us humans and nature with its many forms of wildlife.
This is particularly relevant in the context of our cultural evolution and the urban context into which nature now finds itself thrown. It’s that age-old question: Where does human design end – and nature’s begin? And how do we make sure there is room for both in our gardens?
So if rewilding isn’t just about sitting back and doing nothing, then where do we begin this journey of reconnection?
We start by understanding the “why”.
It makes sense to ask where the need for this more holistic view of garden design comes from and what are the reasons for the need to redesign our gardens. The answer? Massive decline in our biodiversity – and recent media attention.
Put simply, we’re finally seeing that what we’ve been doing hasn’t worked for us or nature, and now it’s time to find a new balance. Additionally, in an increasingly connected and technologically connected world, many of us yearn for a more fundamental balance with nature—one that fosters mindfulness and inner balance. We now know that bringing the wilderness into our living spaces is a powerful antidote to the stresses of modern life.
So what are the benefits of rewilding gardens?
Basically, when done right, there are so many benefits – for us and for nature. From our point of view, the balance in a more relaxed and natural space that we share with a variety of insects and wildlife has positive effects on our bodies and minds – from a greater sense of connection and calm to an appreciation and gratitude for ours Nature.
From nature’s perspective, rewilding brings benefits to the fundamentals of our green spaces: the maintenance and regeneration of the soil, and the creation of havens for insects and animals. This feeling of living together benefits everyone and is one of the greatest gains of naturalization – especially for urban spaces.
But where do I start?
Now that we know why, let’s look at some really easy steps to get you started on your beautiful rewilding journey.
1. wild yourself
Since rewilding is about finding a new relationship with nature, I would suggest just spending some time outdoors and really seeing what brings you joy. Spending time in your space surrounded by greenery, ladybugs, butterflies and bees is good for the soul. Taking this time can help you think about where to start your rewilding efforts.
2. Go organic
This is non-negotiable in a rewilding context. With this approach, there is no room for weed killers, pesticides, and other harmful chemicals. If you do one thing in the garden this year, do it naturally and organically and see your garden thrive. The wonderful thing is that once you get rid of the chemicals, nature can rebalance itself and you will even find fewer pests on your plants as the balance of pests and predators is restored.
3. Mow less, cut higher or let areas grow wild
There are many ways to naturalize your lawn. A simple beginner step is to adjust your blades to have a higher cut to allow more biodiversity to thrive. Growing the grass tall or planting a meadow of wildflowers are both wonderful ways to make a big difference. Consider mowing areas or paths around a soft, wild area, which can be an impressive design feature. The balance of the mown paths through rich tapestry of wild perennials or meadows is stunning and becomes a home for a variety of wildlife.
4. Leave some corners undisturbed
Celebrate that little forgotten corner in the background with nettles and messy tree trunks – this can be the most valuable part of the garden for wildlife. Make sure you have scattered some undisturbed areas. A pile of untidy leaves may annoy you, but if you think it might become a home for insects or small mammals, you might be more forgiving. Remind yourself that nature is magical and everything has its place in a revitalized garden.
5. Every little thing counts
Rewilding is often associated with large, open landscapes, but there are many ways to revitalize even a smaller space. The most important thing is to add planting areas that become havens for animals and insects. And remember – a balcony or garden may not seem like it will make a difference, but when we as a community start creating wild spaces, these can become part of a larger whole and create wildlife corridors in our cities and countries.
The ABC of Rewilding: a simple three-step design to go wild
Finding a way to balance the beauty of nature is a wonderful starting point in the garden. It’s not about choosing between design and nature, it’s about figuring out how we can coexist and live with wildlife and nature in a harmonious way. Designing around these is a great place to start. Here’s a simple three-step design approach to get you started.
A Start with a layer of evergreens that add visual structure to the garden. These form the backbone of a good design. Anything from clipped box to yew, pittosporum and more can become an anchor in a wilder space.
B Make sure you have valuable layers of supportive hedges, shrubs and wild areas for wildlife. A native hedge is always best and again keep the seasons in mind – spring flowering for pollinators and also autumn berries and rose hips. All are valuable for inviting the wild into your space.
C Add a rich carpet of beautiful pollinator-friendly plants that please the eye, invite biodiversity and celebrate the seasons. Depending on your location and style, choose from countless ideas – from scabious to borage, from echinacea to open dahlias to surprising additions like buckhorn. The idea is to mix the best for wildlife with your own favorites for maximum benefit.
How to strive for maximum biodiversity
Keep in mind that when we allow nature to fully take over and naturalize, we often see certain plants becoming dominant. This can be counterproductive when it comes to helping wildlife. What we want is maximum biodiversity. One way to ensure this and thus provide for many animals and insects is to grow a wide range of nectar and food-rich plants.
Think seasonally so there’s something for wildlife in every season; Think of early-blooming perennials like winter-blooming heather, winter-blooming honeysuckle, and evergreen clematis.
Winterling (Eranthis hyemalis) and our native primroses are also very valuable low growing flowers to include in a seasonal wildlife program.
Late blooming trees and shrubs with berries such as mountain ash – Sorbus vilmorinii (Vilmorin’s mountain ash) and the native Euonymus europaeus (spindle tree) and native tea viburnum (Viburnum setigerum) are all great berry suppliers for birds. Other winter plants such as sarcococca, witch hazel, Oregon grape and forsythia are valuable for insects that stay outside in milder weather.
To learn more about wild gardens and get custom tips and ideas for your garden based on the three-step plan above, sign up for Leonie’s new Wild Side Pack (leoniecornelius.com).
Year of the Triffids: It was a wild ride in the garden
With wildflowers, you can’t just sit back and let it happen—nature finds a way, says Emily Hourican
It started, like most things, with the best of intentions. A bit of garden down at the end, next to the shed, which gets sun but is secluded, a bit wild; not as part of my main gardening endeavors. what to do with it I know, plant wildflowers. That way I would be doing something good – we love wildflowers, right? The environment loves wildflowers? – without making me more work.
I bought a packet of mixed seeds, scattered them and sat back. The first year was beautiful: a delicate bloom of various flowers – wild poppy, chamomile, cornflower, daisies, wild carrot and more. Blue, Yellow, Red, Pink. So beautiful. So sustainable, I thought.
The second year, only a handful of the original mix came back. The poppies were there, the daisies, and a lot of what I take for corn radish. They were obviously very happy. They grew tall and lush this year and tended to dominate all other flowers.
Third year was like something out of an alien movie. Nothing came out but the corn wheels, and they were on the march. A huge network of tough, hairy stems with an insufficient amount of pink-purple flowers to balance the stems. They began to spread out vigorously from their intended spot, moving menacingly into the bed next to it and further around the back of the shed.
Year three and a half – I dug up most of them. Not all. I’ve planted other things there and will be keeping a close eye on the abundant corn weeds. Lesson learned? Even with wildflowers, you can’t just sit back and let it happen. Nature finds a way. We also have to find a way.
https://www.independent.ie/life/home-garden/gardens/get-set-to-take-a-walk-on-the-wild-side-5-tips-to-start-your-rewilding-journey-41456018.html Get ready for a walk on the wild side – 5 tips to start your rewilding journey