Wilding our Isles – More and more gardens are growing wild… 

Press release: 13 March, 2023

With environmental issues taking centre stage around the world there has never been a more important time for gardeners to take action.  

“While it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by issues like falling biodiversity and species loss, there is something that all of us can do,” says National Garden Scheme Chief Executive, George Plumptre. “Whether you own rolling acres or a balcony garden everyone can help make a difference.” 

This ‘difference’ is being reflected in gardens large and small that open for the National Garden Scheme in 2023 with many garden owners choosing to leave areas of their gardens wild, cultivating wildflower meadows or creating wildlife ponds or water gardens designed to attract wildlife. 

“Even an old Belfast sink can help attract wildlife into your garden,” says Jackie Harris of the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust (WWT) one of the National Garden Schemes non-commercial partners. Putting watery features like this into your garden is probably the single most effective way you can attract wildlife into your garden because water is vital for all life.  Mini-wetlands like rain gardens can be created in any space, taking the run-off water from your roof, filtering it through gravel and onward into a container that has stones or steps for wildlife along with appropriate plants. You may start with mosquito larvae but that’s the food that attracts other insects and birds. Give it time and you, and your local wildlife, will be rewarded.” 

According to WWT there’s a greater acreage of gardens than nature reserves in England, that’s why in a changing climate our gardens are SO important. Creating mini-wetlands like ponds, planted with the right trees and flowers, with scruffy corners and seed heads left, and access in and out for hedgehogs, gardens can provide food, water and shelter for a host of different birds, insects and invertebrates, creating wonderfully biodiverse habitats, and healthy gardens.  

“Of the 3,500 gardens opening for the National Garden Scheme in 2023, 573 have wild or wildflower meadows mentioned in their descriptions while 12 make specific mention of wilding or rewilding,” adds George Plumptre. 

The Lodge, Hertfordshire, opens for the National Garden Scheme on 24 June For details click here

Of those rewilding on a large scale the key players are Knepp Castle in Sussex which opened for the National Garden Scheme this year on 27th May. Head gardener Charlie Harpur is also leading an online talk about Knepp on 21st March in which he’ll discuss the rewilding of the Victorian walled garden, as well as the development of a new regenerative market garden.  For information and tickets CLICK HERE

Hooke Farm in Dorset, owned by the conservationist and campaigner Julia Hailes MBE, also hosts its second Wilding Weekend this year for the National Garden Scheme on 17th and 18th June. 

Julia, who started her environmental career over 35 years ago and has now transformed the nine acres around her home into a wildlife haven, says: “What we do in our gardens has a significant impact on wildlife and climate change – and everyone has a part to play, however big or small your garden. 

“With experts, talks, demonstrations and walks throughout the weekend, come and see what we’ve done and be inspired about what you can do too!” 

You can find out more about the Wilding Weekend at Hooke Farm by CLICKING HERE 


But it’s not just rolling acres of wildflower meadows that help support biodiversity. A study carried out at the garden at Great Dixter – one of the most cultivated and admired gardens in the country – found that biodiversity was higher in its cultivated garden areas than in its meadows.* 

“The message is clear, gardens, whatever their size, can play a significant role in the nurturing and protection of biodiversity and provide connected habitats for wildlife,” says George Plumptre. “With so many National Garden Scheme gardens leading the way why not explore the gardens opening near you and be inspired to try the same at home.” 


For more about the National Garden Scheme’s partnership with WWT including top tips for creating a rain garden click here: https://ngs.org.uk/wwtpartnership/ 

*For the Great Dixter Biodiversity Audit CLICK HERE 

Lead Image: Stretton Old Hall, Cheshire © Liz Mitchell – Opens for the National Garden Scheme on 22 and 23 July and by arrangement – For more details: https://findagarden.ngs.org.uk/garden/34908/stretton-old-hall

Tanglefoot, Hampshire – Opens June 15 and 18, July 20 and 23 and as part of Crawley Gardens on July 6 and 9 and By Arrangement from Jun 2023 to Jul 2023 for groups of between 1 and 99. For information click here

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