Weeds. Not only can they be really aesthetically pretty, they also provide much-needed homes, food, and egg-laying locations for wildlife – so are a great way to go about creating a wildlife friendly garden.

In fact, earlier this year at Tatton Park Flower Show, one garden was awarded a gold prize, and it was completely full of weeds! The plot was named Weed Thriller, and the creators wanted to show that weeds can be beautiful as well as being essential wildlife.

If you’re a regular viewer of Gardener’s World, or you pay close attention to home and garden design trends, you might already know that there’s been a shift in recent years towards more naturalistic gardening. This means that harsh lines, and lawn stripes are being dropped in favour of a softer approach. It doesn’t make gardens any less attractive, though – and it’s a great way of contributing to the balance of nature, especially in urban environments.

What is a weed?

The dictionary definition of a weed is “a wild plant growing where it is not wanted and in competition with cultivated plants.” so, first of all, if you’re intending on growing a certain plant – then it’s not a weed, it’s just a plant! In fact, garden designer Jack Wallington has written a great book called Wild About Weeds: Garden Design with Rebel Plants and that’s a great way of putting it, rebel plants!

How to use weeds in your garden

Ditch the lawn!

First of all, let’s start by saying that having a wildlife friendly garden doesn’t mean that you have to let your urban outside space descend into a jungle wilderness, but there are definitely small changes you can make to get your garden working with nature. Ok, it might not be that easy and you might like lovely grass. But things like clover, dandelions, and daisies are all incredibly popular with pollinators. If you’re able, why not create a ‘wild corner’ where you can leave a patch of grass, and watch as the pollinators go mad for the native flowers.

Plant wildflowers

Embracing weeds in a wildlife friendly garden: poppies

There are a lot of seed packets containing attractive wildflowers out there, but if you’re going for a garden that looks pretty as well as having great ecological benefit, then you need to make sure that what you’re planting are native species, that will create the greatest benefits in your wildlife friendly garden. The great thing about these, is you can grow them in really small spaces so whether you’re growing them in a dedicated border, a pot, or a windowsill planter you can achieve really pretty results.

‘Fight weeds with weeds’

This is something Jack Wallington talks about in his book, the idea being that if you have a ‘bad’ weed, things like bindweed, or ground elder, then the way to tackle them is encouraging ‘good weeds’ which will compete and win, while also looking attractive.

Related: Japanese Knotweed: a guide >>

To create a wildlife friendly garden, don’t be too tidy

Although it’s not directly related to weeds, this one is a top tip:

Instead of rushing to tidy your borders in autumn, tidy them in spring instead. By leaving them, you’ll be providing winter shelter for a whole host of wildlife. Also in terms of design, it can look really pretty. Plants like those in the Sedum family have really attractive seed heads even once they’ve died back, and as the backdrop for variegated leaves or a bit of winter colour they’re fantastic. They also provide lots of homes for those hibernating critters, which are also essential food for birds.

Basically, don’t be afraid to experiment. Some people consider certain plants to be weeds, while others do not. Buddleia, or oxeye daisies for example. It’s your garden, and you can do what you want to! So embrace those weeds, sit back, and watch nature in your garden thrive.