A TANGLE of wild roses, a butterfly-luring Buddleia bush teaming with life, overgrown grasses and native hedges that are perfect for nests. Add a flowering crab apple, its fruits feeding the birds right through the winter, and a woodpile where insects can thrive. Welcome to the wild garden - the perfect habitat for our declining wildlife from beetles to butterflies and from hedgehogs and squirrels to birds or even badgers.

Garden experts are calling on us to step away from the lawn mower, put down the hoe – don't even think about weedkiller – and allow our gardens to take on a wild feel in the name of creating wildlife havens in our towns and cities that are full of colour and bird song. With modern agricultural practices such as the use of pesticides and urban development leading to a dramatic reduction in habitats for our birds, insects and mammals, they are advocating "wildlife focussed gardening" that is planted as much for our fellow species as ourselves.

With 60 percent of all wildlife species in decline, and biodiversity having decreased 52 percent in the last fifty years, campaigners claim its time for everyone with a garden to do their bit for the planet, creating "wildlife corridors" that help address the fragmented nature of many of our most important habitats.

Wild gardeners such as Tania Pascoe, author of Wild Garden Weekends, insist that with careful management wild gardens can be even more beautiful than the more traditional well-manicured green space, while simultaneously playing an important part in supporting dwindling species.

She said: "We have seen a dramatic decline in biodiversity over the last 50 years. The figures are so shocking. It's mostly down to the way our agricultural practices have changed and so our gardens can be mini-sanctuaries. It's so important that we garden in the right way. We can be inspired by the cottage garden style, or by hay meadows filled with flowers. I think lots of people think wild means messy but it doesn't have to be like that. In your garden you want to feel the abundance of life, it should be a cacophony of sound."

She suggests planing densely planted perennials with long flowering seasons to encourage pollinating insects to the garden, and planting a small tree or hedge for birds and small mammals to nest, while ensuring there is a hedgehog-shaped hole to allow access. Blossoming trees, such as crab apple provide food for both birds and insects, she added, while leaving even a part of the lawn to grow long will give lots of little creatures the perfect place to hide, as well as support diverse plant life. "In Arduaine, [a National Trust for Scotland garden near Oban] they stopped cutting the lawn and native orchards started coming up," she added. "Seeds can sit there [waiting to be activated] for 25 years. The message is - relax a bit, let the clover and the daisies come up."

Jason Russell, of Twig garden design, said many of his clients were looking for a "slightly romantic" aesthetic that supports wildlife diversity. At the most extreme end of the spectrum he recently designed a completely wild garden that backed on to a woodland, packed with wild flowers, and inspired by the countryside. The clients, who had returned to the area when they bought the house, remembered it as a beautiful wild space before it was developed and wanted to honour their memories.

"To keep it looking wild actually takes a lot of management," he admitted. The company is providing ongoing maintenance. He claims that many gardens in Scotland would return to woodland rather than meadow if truly left to go wild, with native wild flowers often preferring poor soil quality. However there are simpler ways of bringing the wild in. Damp or shady areas can be planted densely with foliage, attracting small mammals. "Get some logs and plant ferns," he said. "It can look really pretty."

Prairie style gardening, composed entirely of herbaceous perennials and grasses can be dramatic, especially if plants have good looking seed heads that can be left to provide food for birds. Garage and shed roofs can be turfed and wild flower seeds sown there to attract winged insects.

Since the Second World War, 97 percent of wildflower meadows have disappeared affecting numerous species including bees - which humanity depends on to propagate flowers and crops. Hedgehog numbers have almost halved in number since 2000 due to the destruction of traditional hedgerows and a decline in the insects they feed on.

Laura Preston, the Scottish Wildlife Trust’s ranger at Falls of Clyde Wildlife Reserve, agreed that gardens can offer an antidote to the decline in Scotland's natural habitats including woodlands, which can be home to red squirrels, a native Scottish species which has undergone a catastrophic population decline due to the introduction of the American grey squirrel. "If habitats are fragmented and not connected populations can become cut off from each other and can't breed successfully," she said.

Other Scottish habitats under threat include peat bogs, which are home to many rare insects. Known as "superheroes of the ecosystem" they purify water, mitigate against flooding and store carbon but are still being dug up and sold in garden centres across the country. Grasslands, which support wildflowers, insects, pollinators, mammals and birds are also of concern.

Preston, who runs public workshops on making hedgehog houses and bird boxes as well as blogging on wild gardening, claims that even simple changes can make a big difference. "The thing to remember is not to get bogged down in the garden," she said. "You can't do it all. Most people's gardens are not massive. I've got bird feeders but I don't have room for a nest box [a distance between the two is recommended]. But there is a box a few gardens down.

"You might not want a pond but have room for a small tree. It's one of the best things you can do. A tree can support 300 species of insects and the seeds and leaf litter that fall might attract wood mice or other small animals. Birds can roost or nest there and all of a sudden you have created a lovely habitat right there. Trees also have a very calming effect on people. You can pick and chose. If everyone did just one thing that would be amazing."


Five gardens to inspire you as recommended by Tania Pascoe

1. Cambo, St Andrews

It's best known as the home of the national collection of snowdrops, offering up a beautiful carpet of white every February. But its walled garden is equally impressive, bursting with colour, fruit trees and wild at heart. camboestate.com

2. Branco Castle gardens , Branco

The castle might be foreboding but the gardens are inviting. Here wild roses climb up oak trees and winding paths are mown through the woodland sections. Discover the fern edged pond and relax into its secret garden feel.


3. Cally Gardens, Gatehouse of Fleet,

The home and nursery of renowned plant hunter Michael Wickenden is full of thick borders crammed with beautiful perennials and fringed with grasses. There are over 4,000 species here in a beautiful and inspiring space.


4. Arduaine, Oban

Head gardener Maurice Wilkins aims to provide a sanctuary for wildlife and plant collections here.The grass is left to grow, only being cut back in September and supports wild orchids. Otters have been sighted and the ponds teem with life.


5. Cawdor Castle, Nairn

Abundant with flowers it attracts clouds of tortoise shell butterflies and other insects. The trees hang with lichens and the ancient woodlands make a beautiful and unusual backdrop for its more traditionally laid out gardens. cawdorcastle.com

More details: Wild Garden Weekends published by Wild Things Publishing

Make your own flower meadow

Grow Wild is an initiative of the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, which aims to reverse the dramatic decline of our wild flower populations. Here's how to plant your own:

1. Choose a space that's as bare, open and sunny as possible.

2. Give your seeds the best chance by raking until the soil has a fine and crumbly texture.

3. Sprinkle your seeds evenly across the soil - seeds need sunlight, so don't bury them.

4. If you're using a container, make sure it has drainage holes before filling it with soil or compost.

5. Keep the soil moist. When it's hot this could mean watering every day.

6. Watch out for slugs and snails, and check your space for weeds. If weeds do emerge, trace the stems down and gently remove them.

7. Your wild flowers should bloom within 14 to 16 weeks but be patient - and remember perennials won't flower until the second year.

Bring nature into your back garden

Chose just one way to help create wildlife habitats in your garden (or go wild and do them all).

1. Create a woodpile

Great for hibernating hedgehogs, they are also insect factories, providing year round food for all kinds of birds and mammals. Collect any old dead wood from your garden or ask the local park or wildlife reserve for permission to take some from their supply and pile it up in a quiet undisturbed corner of your garden.

2. Plant a hedge: our native hedgerows are in decline. Replace a fence with a hazel, hawthorn or mixed hedge and watch it grow into a habitat for birds and mammals. Remember to leave a gap that the hedgehogs can squeeze through.

3. Create a pond or damp area: it doesn't need to be big. Even a bowl or bird bath will help attract species searching for water including frogs and toads.

4. Leave a patch of grass overgrown: clover and daisies mean more pollen for bees and wasps and create habitats for beetles, butterflies and small mammals.

5. Put in a hedgehog house, bird box or feeder: make or buy one – making sure you chose recycled or sustainable wood – and watch the wildlife move into your garden.