Wilding or Rewilding?

For Gardenista, Kendra Wilson discusses the topic du jour in gardening and landscaping circles.

Meadow buttercup flowers

Inspired by ‘The Book of Wilding: A Practical Guide to Rewilding Big and Small‘, written by Isabella Tree and Charlie Burrell of the Knepp Estate, Wilson breaks down the distinction between wilding and rewilding.

Accoring to Wilson, ‘rewilding’ is about restoring ecological function, whilst ‘wilding’ is more about being guided by nature when planting, rather than relying on received ideas. “Rewilding has been interpreted as permission to let go, to let weeds trip people up as they navigate city streets, or to sit back and watch the most vigorous plants take over our once-tended green spaces”, writes Wilson. “Anyone with an interest in maintaining the status quo is against rewilding, we are led to believe”.

In her poignant article, Wilson addresses a few fundamental criticisms of the rewilding movement, such as; the prioritisation of fauna restoration over the specific role of flora, and the seemingly contradictory issue of “swapping out soil conditions in order to meet personal or aesthetic needs. In the refurbished walled garden at Knepp, fertile topsoil was exchanged for tons of crushed concrete and brick, to implement a design by Tom Stuart-Smith, and this is happening all over”.

Blinded by our own ignorance, ten years ago conversations of “gardens as habitat”, were niche only, whereas they are now more mainstream. “Let’s keep arguing”, she pleads.

Kendra Wilson is a longstanding correspondent for Gardenista and has contributed to The Sunday Times, Gardens Illustrated, Guardian Weekend, Garden Design Journal, RHS The Garden and Vogue. She is the author of a number of books, including My Garden is a Car Park and Other Design Dilemmas (2017).