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RHS Companion to Wildlife Gardening by Chris Baines

RHS Companion to Wildlife Gardening – review

Wildlife expert and writer Kate Bradbury reviews RHS Companion to Wildlife Gardening by Chris Baines.

Our review

This revised and updated guide to wildlife gardening from the RHS includes advice on rewilding, along with new illustrations and projects.

RHS Companion to Wildlife Gardening
by Chris Baines
Frances Lincoln, £25
ISBN 978-0711281288


An oldie but a goodie, Chris Baines’s Companion to Wildlife Gardening was first published in 1985 and was fully revised and updated in 2016, incorporating the latest RHS research on issues, such as use of pesticides, native plants, messy areas and habitat boxes. It remains an excellent and comprehensive guide: you’ll find information on why gardens are important and specific plants to grow, along with the more general principles of wildlife gardening, such as how to recreate wetland, woodland edge and meadow habitats in gardens. There are also tips on propagation, identifying and recording wildlife, and growing food. (I was sad to see that Chris is still advocating the killing of large white butterflies, however, despite acknowledging that they mostly lay eggs on nasturtiums.)

As ever, this book remains relevant, useful and engaging.

The 2016 revision also featured a new chapter entitled Over the Garden Wall, where readers were encouraged to see beyond their gardens, assessing local green spaces, mapping nature networks, recording wildlife and campaigning against their loss, particularly in cities. Now, for 2023, this last chapter has been rewritten to include information on rewilding and nature recovery, alongside original tips on how to plan and present an argument to councils who are – at least supposed to be – taking biodiversity and green spaces more seriously these days.


This puts a more positive slant on a chapter that was formerly a touch depressing, as it now focuses on the power of communities and of nature itself to heal, rather than the scourge of lawn mowers, bad tree planting and spraying of caterpillar food plants. As ever, this book remains relevant, useful and engaging. The images are beautiful (most remain unchanged since the 2016 update), and it should be on the bookshelf of every gardener, not just those with a particular interest in wildlife. However, if you already have the 2016 revised version, I don’t think you need to replace it with this one.