Killing weeds is “old-fashioned”, according to Rachel de Thame, who has urged gardeners to let them grow freely on flower beds to motorway verges.
The Gardeners’ World presenter, who is part of the BBC team covering the RHS Chelsea Flower Show, said “the zeitgeist is very much along the lines of putting nature first”.
At Chelsea this year, a third of the show gardens will feature weeds as part of an attempt to rebrand them as “resilient plants”.
Sheila Das, the garden manager at RHS Wisley in Surrey, said gardeners should refer to them as “weed heroes”.
Times have changed
De Thame said times had changed and weed-free gardens should be a thing of the past.
“A lot of people still want their garden to look cared for, and for many that means pulling out all the weeds, but I really do think there’s a compromise to be found.
“I read something just the other day about killing your weeds and it felt old-fashioned,” she said.
De Thame added: “I was driving on a motorway and the central area dividing the carriageways had been mown. Why on earth is public money being used to get rid of a froth of cow parsley?”
In an interview with Radio Times, De Thame was asked if embracing weeds was somehow “woke”.
She replied: “It may seem like that to some, but it’s just about being aware and accepting that we, as humans, are not the only important beings in the environment in which we live.”
Gardeners should, for example, think twice before reaching for the bug spray, she said.
“If you have aphids or greenfly on your plants, ladybirds will eat them.”
As a child, she recalled “waging war” on dandelions in her parents’ garden and helping her father to keep the rockery free of weeds.
Watching weeds is a revelation
Only three years ago, De Thame wrote a piece about the need to clear her Cotswolds garden of “runaway weeds”.
However, she has now learnt to enjoy living with them, having decided to leave one area of the garden alone.
“Watching the weeds come in has been a revelation,” she said, with that corner now a mini-meadow of grasses and wildflowers.
“Insects are amazing and I’m so glad that my garden has more weeds in it now than ever. They make my heart sing.”
She accepted that it was hard to love some weeds such as ground elder, horsetail and bindweed.
Thriving, natural habitats
Cleve West, the six-times gold medal-winner at Chelsea, will design a garden for Centrepoint, the homeless charity, that makes a feature of weeds.
“What at first glance may appear to be a dysfunctional and fragmented space is in fact a thriving, natural habitat,” he said.
The trend follows gardening experts urging us to stop mowing the lawn in order to create a more hospitable environment for wildlife.
Monty Don, the television presenter and gardener, has said that neatly mown lawns are a symbol of the patriarchy.
“The obsession, which tends to be male, is controlling rather than embracing – making a lawn that is pure grass without any filth and foreign invading plants in there, making sure it’s stripy and neat, and phew, just one aspect of life that’s under control.”