Is rewilding, where nature is allowed to take its course, all it’s cracked up to be? Alan Titchmarsh, the nation’s joint favourite gardener along with Monty Don, appears to think not. In an intervention in the House of Lords’ horticultural sector committee inquiry, Titchmarsh said that rewilded gardens are bad news for wildlife.
‘With their greater plant diversity, domestic gardens offer sustenance and shelter to wildlife from March through to November,’ he told peers. ‘Nine months’ of nourishment. A rewilded garden will offer nothing but straw and hay from August to March. A four-month flowering season is the norm. Should a current fashionable and ill-considered trend deplete our gardens of their botanical riches, then we have presided over a diminution in biodiversity of catastrophic proportions.’
Woo. That’s telling ’em. Richard Bunting, of Rewilding Britain, has already urged Titchmarsh to have a rethink:
‘Simple actions such as letting wildflowers grow…can make a big difference and can work well alongside traditional gardening….Unfortunately Alan is picking the wrong fight.’
We are in danger of setting up a fake fight here. Alan Titchmarsh presides over a two acre wildflower meadow. He has been gardening organically for 40 years. He’s a pal of King Charles. I think he’s not a man to blitz greenfly with carcinogenic pesticides if he can get away with a nice garlic spray. He would probably top himself rather than buy a fake lawn.
Titchmarsh is, environmentally, on the side of the angels. But the problem with rewilding is, of course, if it becomes a dogma which obliges gardeners to give up cultivated space to weeds on the mere grounds that they are native to this soil.
As Titchmarsh observes, a well-tended garden which has a range of species can extend its flowering season by a matter of months.