The Beth Chatto Symposium “Rewilding the Mind” showcased many of the leading European voices in ecological landscaping, and it’s all available online, FREE! And I learned about it from Canadian designer Tony Spencer, who said on his New Perennialist website :

Gadzooks! We can now watch the entire 2022 Beth Chatto Symposium for free on YouTube. Watch video presentations by some of the foremost designers, landscape architects, rewilding experts, ecologists and horticulturists in the UK and Sweden…This free gift comes to us courtesy of @bethchattogardens and I, for one, am absolutely gobsmacked by their generosity.
All 15 talks and panel discussions are here. and to quote Tony, gadzooks! Are they ever enlightening and mind-opening! And, I venture to say, presenting a bigger-picture view than we generally see in the U.S.  And after watching almost all of them, I found that “wilder” landscapes started to look more normal to me.   Check out the speakers.
Here’s a sampling of the talks. (The recording has a glitch – scattered moments of darkness – but otherwise are a pure pleasure to watch.)
Tom Stuart-Smith “Planting and Context” presents large spaces like the one above, but still can inspire the homeowner with design ideas.

I was fascinated by this talk on greening the city. In London and  Amsterdam, pilot plantings are being studied to discover the most resilient plants (after several years of severe drought). 

Ton Muller,  head landscape designer for Amsterdam, showed this example of a common practice in that city – turning the sidewalk closest to buildings into gardens. Can you imagine that here? Me, neither. Maybe in Chicago?I love this image from Fernandes’s talk about urban forests. He also talked about using “stylized” or “pictorial” meadow with added color because that grabs people’s attention. “Context is everything.”

Fergus Garrett’s talk about biodiversity at Great Dixter was my favorite and most relevant, I think, to home gardens, as he recounted the loosening or “wilding” of Great Dixter over the years.

But most interesting of all was the purpose of its biodiversity audit, which was done only after repeated urging by Garrett’s wife to “Get a proper audit done,” to compile actual facts about the garden and its ecological value.

Great Dixter is a sensitively but highly managed flower garden open to the public.  We are colorful, dynamic, dramatic, full of non-native plants, and ‘gardened.’ Gardens like us (large or small) are sometimes labelled unnatural and all things bad associated with old-fashioned gardening and so everyone (ecologists especially) expected the wildlife value at Great Dixter to be low compared to the countryside beyond.

Ecologists have considered gardens and designed landscapes to be part of the problem – but may realize that we can be part of the solution.

The big reveal at the end of the survey? After rejection by the professional groups that perform audits (who basically turned up their noses and declared “We don’t do gardens”), the one-year audit found over 2,300 species on the property, with the greatest number found in the formal perennial beds – not the meadow or other parts nontraditional parts of the garden. So, certainly gardens don’t have to be sterile. Beauty and wildlife value can be quite compatible. Photo credit.

In her “Reframing the Wild Garden” talk, Sarah Price showed some of her large projects, then her own garden, where she planted a meadow directly in the turfgrass.  She describes the aesthetic of her work as “more subtle than Instagram-worthy photos.”

Finally, the talk about garden cities was of particular interest to me, as I live in one of them (Greenbelt, Md., a project of the New Deal.)

A Garden City in the News (Off topic)

Greenbelt is all over the news today, both local and national, after the announcement that it had been chosen as the site of the new FBI headquarters.  It’ll be built on what’s now the parking lot at the Greenbelt Metro station, about a mile from the historic garden city.