Rewild Your Garden: Francis Tophill's book

Rewild Your Garden: Create a Haven for Birds, Bees and Butterflies by Frances Tophill, book review

An attractively illustrated book that makes a strong case for the idea – when it comes to biodiversity, at least – that a little less control goes a long way.  

Rewild Your Garden:
Create a Haven for Birds, Bees and Butterflies
by Frances Tophill
Quercus Books
£15 ISBN 978-1529410259

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When, in 2000, Isabella Tree and her husband Charlie Burrell downed tools and let nature take its course at their 3,500-acre estate in West Sussex, many observers thought they were mad. Twenty years on, with their land now teeming with life including rare species, such as purple emperor butterflies and turtle doves, they have kick-started a new appreciation for how wildlife, ecosystems and biodiversity can be not just conserved but restored.

This approach might work well on a large scale but what can the average gardener, who still wants to look out on to something aesthetically pleasing, hope to achieve? This is the question tackled by writer and Gardeners’ World presenter Frances Tophill in a book that encourages us to consider the garden ecosystem both as a whole and as part of the wider landscape all around us. Though she doesn’t say it anywhere near as bluntly, plants for pollinators and bee hotels are all very well, but they are only part of the solution. The woodlouse, the ant and the earwig are all just as essential – as are bacteria in the soil and fungi and mosses in the ground layer above.

The book begins with a brief assessment of the different levels of the garden ecosystem, from the soil to the canopy layer with suggestions for three different approaches for each, varying from the highly controlled to the almost total non-intervention that characterises true rewilding. Tophill then goes on to consider the various components of a typical garden, from ponds and lawns to kitchen gardens and flower beds, for each advising on ways to attract as much wildlife as possible.

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Combined with beautiful illustrations by Jo Parry, this is an encouraging and supportive book that aims to help you find the level of rewilding that is right for you, while acknowledging that even the smallest of steps can make an enormous difference.