Rewilding Landscapes: The Latest Sustainability Trend

Like clothing and home design, garden trends change from year to year. Increasingly over the past several decades, home and business owners alike have been turning away from artificially green, perfectly manicured lawns and gravitating more toward ecological gardening. Currently, rewilding is making headway in the landscape architecture world. It easily integrates native plants into your landscaping and not only benefits you but local wildlife as well. Read on to learn more about this simple, low-maintenance garden trend.

What is rewilding?

Rewilding originally referred to rebuilding habitats by way of letting nature reclaim the land with little help of humans and to restore connected wilderness areas for large carnivores in hopes of keeping their numbers from declining. The definition, however, underwent some changes once the philosophy made its way to England where less emphasis was placed on carnivores and more on ways, big and small, humans could make a difference in habitat creation in their own backyards by taking a hands-off approach.


Nowadays, rewilding simply means letting a non-wild area return to its natural state, no matter how big or small that space may be. Rewilding takes the wasted space of a traditional grass lawn and creates a habitat oasis for creatures and plants that find their normal habitats diminishing due to increased human development. From shopping centers to apartment complexes, habitats are being lost at an alarming rate.

You may remember our post from a while ago about another current low-maintenance landscaping trend: Xeriscaping. Rewilding is also technically a form of this since native plants are used, which help retain moisture. This means there won’t be the need to water your lawn all of the time, another key component of xeriscaping. Rock features can also be implemented in rewilding designs to create homes and hiding spaces for lizards and insects.

From the description so far, you may be worried that you will end up with an unkempt jungle for a yard. On the contrary, the landscape design will be implemented to layout plants and other features organically, but that doesn’t mean your yard will be overrun with “weeds” (although many plants and wildflowers that are considered weeds are actually beneficial native plants).

Now that you have a good idea of what rewilding is, let’s talk some more about what is involved and what is used in its design.

What’s Involved in Rewilding?

For home projects, rewilding can range from a compost pile and a few native plants in a small corner of your yard to a complete surrender of your backyard to a more natural state. The main idea is having less grass-only lawn, which is typically achieved by adding and eliminating a few different things to and from your yard.

A good place to start is by learning about the plants you already have in your yard and finding out whether they are invasive or not. If you do have some invasive species, you will want to get rid of them so that the native plants you do implement will not be crowded out. For example, several types of invasive honeysuckle have made their homes in central Indiana and are notorious for choking out good plants. You want to give any new plants the best possible chances of thriving, so be sure to kick out any bully plants first!

Second, as already mentioned, native flowers, trees, and shrubs are implemented in rewilding designs to boost the local flora and fauna. The idea is to create habitat for native wildlife who may otherwise be having a hard time finding places to nest, hide from predators, lay their eggs, etc. Many native plant species are in danger as well due to declining habitat. Rewilding is a great contribution to help these animals and plants out.

Water features also play an important part in rewilding designs. Not only are they attractive to us humans, but wildlife as well, creating sources of drinking water for birds and small mammals and even places for some creatures to lay their eggs, such as salamanders and newts. While a pond would certainly be wonderful, birdbaths and rain gardens are just as helpful.

While we’re still on the subject of creating wildlife habitat, placing some nesting boxes and bat boxes are also an easy way to implement rewilding in your backyard. Birds will eat up excessive and unsavory bugs by day and bats will eat up all of those pesky mosquitoes by night!

Rewilding is also about letting go of the idea of a well-manicured yard. This may be your biggest obstacle as a freshly cut, lush green lawn has become an essential facet of our western culture. Although plants and landscape implements will be arranged in such a way that they will look and feel natural, if you absolutely can’t get past the idea of letting go of all of your lawn, start small. There are several ways to do this.

Start with a small corner of your property as we mentioned earlier. Start a compost pile (leaf litter, grass clippings, vegetable scraps, etc). Not only do they help with waste reduction, but the compost can also be used in planting beds and gardens and provide homes for helpful critters such as worms (they help aerate your garden and break down organic matter into even more nutrient-rich soil).

You can also start by using native hedging to create an aesthetically-pleasing and functional property border. Even small native shrubs are available for those with small areas and, bonus, you can “mix and match” them to create more diversity. If you’re looking for something a little more traditional, start by creating a pollinator garden to attract bees and butterflies to your neighborhood.

All of these things combined make rewilding an attractive and feasible sustainability trend. So, what are some other benefits of rewilding your green space?

What are the Benefits of Rewilding?

The rewards of rewilding are numerous and we’ve already covered several of them. Naturally, your efforts will improve the life of plants and animals in your area. By providing more diverse plant life, you’ll also be creating more habitat for animals and insects who may be seeing a decrease in theirs. Plus, it’s very relaxing to watch said wildlife and learn about local birds, butterflies, and more.

You might also be surprised by how much money and time you save by rewilding. Your maintenance costs, both monetary and time, will be drastically reduced, if not eliminated, by not spending money on pesticides, fertilizers, mowing, and watering. Americans spend an alarming amount of money on these things, an estimated $36 billion annually, at 7 billion gallons of water a day and 59 million pounds of pesticides used in residential areas each year.

Not only will your yard be a safe haven for wildlife, but your entire family will experience health benefits by going chemical-free with the elimination of commercial fertilizers and pesticides. In general, native plants are more resilient to insects and disease. Even if you do find yourself with an increasing bug infestation or curious plant disease, there are plenty of at-home remedies you can mix up and more natural commercial options available each year.

For one last perk, you might even consider learning some herbalism! Many native plants can be used to treat common ailments. For example, echinacea (purple coneflower) tea lessens the symptoms and severity of the common cold.

In a nutshell, rewilding takes the stance of “less is more”: Less time and money spent on maintenance and more time to enjoy the wildlife and plants thriving in your own backyard. And, at the very least, you will have an eye-catching yard and add a splash of color to your neighborhood.

Give us a call or schedule a consultation online to get your own rewilding project started. We’re happy to answer any questions or concerns you have, talk about the plants we use, and more.


Greenscape Geeks is a central Indiana landscape architecture and landscape design, construction, and lawn maintenance company, serving Indianapolis (including Meridian Kessler, Herron Morton, Williams Creek, and Irvington), Carmel, Noblesville, Fishers, and Zionsville.

This is a guest post by Alicia Owen