How to Create a Wild life garden

Wild area in the garden
A section of the wild area in the garden

Setting aside part of your garden for "Wilding" or creating a wildlife garden gives another dimension to a garden. Over time, it will increase both the wildlife visitors to your garden and the wild flowers. In my garden there are flower borders and veg areas, but there is also a large wild area which over several years has been left to go wild.

Creating a wildlife area can be done slowly, just letting nature take over and seed what comes naturally. Some gardens prefer to introduce specific plants and wildflowers. We can look at both, in my own garden it has been left to develop naturally, and it is amazing the range of wild flowers which appear, (as if from nowhere,) over the years. "Wilding" lets nature take its course, but you can be more creative and introduce wildflowers, tips, and advice about both below.

Whichever route you take, the type of wild flowers which appear, or which you introduce, need to be suited to your garden environment. The old rule "Right Plant, Right Place" applies just the same. If the wild area of your garden is damp, or boggy, Marsh Marigolds make take up residence naturally, or you may plant them, whereas a Corn Poppy will not and will not thrive if planted. Wildflowers, like any other plants, look for a garden which matches their natural growing environment. 

You can also attract bees and butterflies to your garden with conventional planting- check out Wildlife friendly Plants and 6 pages of ideas of bee and butterfly friendly planting.

Wilding

Wilding is letting nature take over, which I have done in parts of the garden,  including the area shown above. Over time, many wild flowers have appeared. Below are images of just some wildflowers which have established themselves. The wild part of my garden is a damp, boggy area next to a stream and also shady area within some trees, so naturally the wildflower plants which have settled themselves here are those suit this habitat. 

All the dozen or so images are genuine, all from my garden, and none of these wildflowers were specially planted but arrived as I left the area to go wild.  I hope this gives some idea what to expect if you decide to let a section of your garden go wild. There are more wildflowers than the images portray. 

To maintain a balance, I do some gardening, otherwise the more vigorous weeds would take over. This means checking areas of nettles and brambles to allow some to develop, but not to overtake the other flowers. 

Creating a Wildlife and wild flower garden

The garden above is created by chance, it is what nature provides. If you want to create a more specific look, you can add to the backdrop of wilding wildflowers of your choice. This also speeds up the process as it can take quite some time, (as in a number of years,) for wildflowers to establish themselves naturally. 

You can do this several ways. 

The first is to introduce established plants, which I have done in a small way planting Cirsium rivulare 'Atropurpureum' . Although not a native wildflower plant, it looks good in a wild setting and the bees go mad for it, so I added it in alongside the steam. This is also a perennial, and so graces the garden each year.

Alternatively, you can buy small plug plants or seeds and introduce these into the wild area. If you are doing this for the first year or so you will need to clear grasses and "weeds" from the immediate planting area to give the new plants chance to get established.  Some plants, such as Dipsacus fullonum the common teasel illustrated centre, are easier to establish because it is robust, some would say a pest, but it's a pest the pollinating insects and goldfinches love.

Wilding is different to creating an annual wildflower patch or meadow. If this is your preferred route, you will need to clear the area and keep it weed free, which is very difficult in a wild garden area. Many of the wildflower meadows in the gardens we visit are created to be just that, and not really suited to a wild area. Also, they are often made from annual seeds which will die back each year. This method of creating a wildflower garden is the most time-consuming. It looks casual but is high maintenance. Tips and growing instructions for creating a wild flower patch.

Don't forget your lawn

For many years a well manicured, velvet green weed free lawn has been a gardening goal. Fortunately, that is changing with the drive to greener gardening, the use of fewer pesticides and looking after wildlife.

If wilding in your garden seems to be too much, why not set aside part of your lawn to go its own way. Let it grow, you don't even have to plant in it, just leave it alone. Long grass is good for wildlife providing shelter to beetles, frogs, various caterpillars of moths and butterflies, grasshoppers. The grass will flower producing pollen and wildflowers may seed into it. Clover has time to grow, and that's a big plus for the bees.

It's also very relaxing to look at. 

Last updated 02.01.2021