Alan Titchmarsh warns against ‘ill-considered’ rewilding trend in domestic gardens

The ‘Love Your Garden’ host has previously expressed concerns over the practice

Kate Ng
Monday 17 July 2023 09:32 BST
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<p> Alan Titchmarsh attends the Chelsea Flower Show 2018 on May 21, 2018 </p>

Alan Titchmarsh attends the Chelsea Flower Show 2018 on May 21, 2018

Alan Titchmarsh has told a House of Lords investigation into rewilding that the practice is “catastrophic” for biodiversity and is an “ill-considered trend”.

The TV presenter and gardening expert has previously expressed scepticism over the popularity of rewilding, which is described as a process of rebuilding a natural ecosystem by reducing human influence on the environment.

Rewilding Britain, a movement that campaigns for the “large-scale restoration of ecosystems”, says the practice helps encourage “the return of threatened and missing species, and embraces the ebb and flow of nature, allowing animals, plants, birds and the elements to shape our landscapes and habitats over time”.

However, Titchmarsh believes that rewilding does not increase plant diversity and in fact may “deplete” gardens across the country of their “botanical riches”.

According to the Daily Mail, the Love Your Garden host told peers at a horticultural sector committee inquiry that gardens and parks with a greater variety of plants can give wildlife more sustenance for a longer period of time, compared to a rewilded garden.

He said: “Domestic gardens and well-planted parks offer an opportunity to all forms of wildlife – be they birds seeking nesting sites in hedges, berried plants that provide winter food, or shrubs that offer shelter to mammals.

“Domestic gardens, with their greater plant diversity, offer sustenance and shelter to wildlife from March through November. 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.”

He said that while it is essential to ensure the countryside’s native trees, shrubs, plants and flowers are protected, domestic gardeners should not be pressured into rewilding their home spaces.

“I find it worrying that misleading propaganda suggests only native plants are of any value to wildlife and the environment,” he continued in his evidence. “This is at odds with my experience as the custodian of a two-acre wildflower meadow and garden.

Alan Titchmarsh attends the VIP preview day of The Chelsea Flower Show at The Royal Hospital Chelsea on May 19, 2014

“The garden is patently richer – and for longer – in the variety of insect and bird species it sustains. Domestic gardeners have a duty to ensure the survival of this unparalleled resource.

“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.”

Earlier this year, Titchmarsh conveyed his reservations about rewilding in an article forCountry Life magazine, ahead of the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) Chelsea Flower Show.

He wrote at the time that rewilding made “the assumption that nature is best left to herself and any muscling in on our part is to be deplored”. “Gardening is, by its very nature, intervention,” Titchmarsh added.

He also urged the RHS to stop “pandering” to rewilding and to celebrate gardening.

Titchmarsh’s view was labelled as “disappointing” by some experts. Catherine Capon, a rewilding advocate and communications consultant at Treedom, told Ideal Home that the practice “complements” gardening, rather than being mutually exclusive concepts.

“In fact, I believe that putting nature and biodiversity at the heart of gardening is an exciting movement that can have huge benefits for British ecosystems.”

Titchmarsh argued in his evidence to peers that wildlife is “adaptable” and can learn quickly what plants are of value, no matter where they come from.

“Add to this that such a diversity of plant species and varieties extends our gene pool – offering benefits such as pest and disease resistance, adaptability to climate change and global warming, and far from our parks and gardens being polluted by such introductions, they are enriched,” he said.

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