Explore The Latest Landscaping Trend Letting Nature Run Wild


More than two decades ago, the stewards of Knepp Estate—a Regency-era manor house in West Sussex, England—opted to let their 3,500-acre property return to the overgrown, exultant state that Mother Nature intended. Soon, everything from nightingales to turtle doves reappeared, and flora and fauna thrived. The concept that Knepp helped popularize— known as rewilding—is largely due to pioneering husband and wife conservationists, Sir Charles Burrell and Isabella Tree.

Since then, rewilding has grown in popularity across the pond too. The idea refers to “creating a natural environment versus one that is overly manicured and artificial,” says Connecticut-based landscape architect Janice Parker. “It’s achieved by switching to a natural ecosystem that supports the insects, birds and pollinators where you live and the size of your land.” Creating such a lush environment is the first step in letting nature come roaring back and shifting to a more sustainable way of gardening or landscaping.

overgrown green landscape and English manor house

Photo: Neil Landino

There’s also a way to do rewilding even if you prefer to cultivate a formal garden. For example, Parker suggests creating a 10-foot border at the edge of your property and planting panicum seeds and native wildflowers within the designated area. “Just letting the grass grow high and mowing paths through it can be successful”, says Parker, as is evident in her Greenwich, Connecticut, project, above. “But it’s always unpredictable as to what will take, so I never suggest making a huge investment.”

Paige Martin, a landscape architect based in Mill Valley, California, integrates pollinator-friendly plant material in projects large and small, weaving them in alongside other companion plantings. “Seasonal planting provides interest throughout the year—not just for humans, but for attracting birds, pollinators and other wildlife,” Martin says. Allowing biodiversity and natural habitats to flourish uninhibited is at the heart of rewilding and doing so, even on a small scale, supports the regeneration of nature.