Rewilding is the buzz these days. Le mot du jour. But what does that really mean? And how wild is one to go and still have a garden to speak of? Wildness is sort of an ambiguous word – it can mean different things to different people. Wildness typically means an area that does not have humans impacting it. We humans are tamers historically. So, loosening our control on our gardens and letting Nature take over runs counter to what a gardener (human) does. Not to mention, a garden by its very existence is a managed space. It is created by human effort. So why all the current hype about leaving well enough alone?
Rewilding is, as I see it, a pendulum-like swing from the over-cultivated, heavily manipulated, high maintenance gardens that were more for show and less about sustainability or conservation. After all, simply letting nature take over would not be good. It would result in woodlands emerging all over the space. While the woods are delightful and come with their own special and diverse flora and fauna, it could hardly be a garden. Besides, more important ly, the better part of pollinators would have no place to exist. Most woodland flowers bloom in spring and the rest of the year, blooms are scarce. Pollinators require sustenance during the other seasons as well.
This naturally means open spaces such as meadows and more to the point, gardens. A range of habitats are required to support diverse wildlife. Every kind of space has a specific purpose and fosters different wildlife leading to healthy ecosystems and environments that are in balance.
In the case of our gardens, it does not mean we hang up our trowels and say goodbye to doing the fulfilling work of transforming our spaces. As I see it, gardens can play very vital roles in the context of keeping the environment healthy as well as bridging the countrysides, farmlands, woodlands and waterways to support the diverse plants and wildlife.
The variety of habitats will support the myriad wildlife most individually suited to them. How we make our gardens rich in wildlife is determined by how we choose to garden.
First and foremost, reduce the area of lawn. They are detrimental to the environment. The cost in terms of money, time, labor and resources in order to keep a pristine, green lawn is prohibitive and ultimately, it does not encourage any pollinator or other wildlife to thrive. Instead, create areas for native grasses and plants. If space permits, add a few native trees, shrubs and groundcovers.
With whatever lawn that remains, mow less, keep the height of the mower blade high to protect the soil from drying up. Leave the grass clippings in place to go back to enriching the soil. Electric or manual reel mowers are preferred over gas mowers.
Allow wild flowers to emerge in the lawns. ‘Weeds’ such a dandelions, buttercups, clover and plantain are greatly loved by pollinators, So leave them alone! Use compost to feed the lawn – a single application in spring is sufficient. Compost does double duty as a mulch. Unless there is a drought, let the lawns and plants cope without watering. Native plants are hardy and adapt best to changing climates. Permit the plants to express themselves -there’s much to be said for the organic beauty of seeing where self-seeders pop up. My garden has several columbines and not a single one grows where they were originally planted. They have independently found the sites they grow best.
My meadow, the most wild part of my garden, is all native plants competing for space and pollinators. Whatever thrives is just fine. Sometimes, I need to run interference when a member gets too thuggish and ever so often I will introduce something new in the hope it’ll make it. Apart from that, the meadow is let to do its own thing. No watering or feeding. It gets a partial cutback in late fall when hundreds of spring bulbs are planted. That’s it.
This part of the garden is so full of life that I could sit and observe the goings on endlessly.
Elsewhere, the more structured parts are also full of native plants so there is continuity in design as well as in the wildlife they support. Fruit trees, water features, the vertical garden and adjoining woods, keep my garden rich in both flora and fauna. As regards the non-native members in my garden – they are non-invasive and ecologically beneficial.
In the final analysis, go a bit wild. Free yourself to let nature work with you. I promise, your heart will sing.
(c) 2024 Shobha Vanchiswar
[do_widget “Blog Subscriptions (Jetpack)”]