Celebrating Urban Biodiversity: The Impact of Landlords, Tenants and…
Celebrating Urban Biodiversity
10 Aug 2023

Celebrating Urban Biodiversity: The Impact of Landlords, Tenants and Their Innovative Gardens


Posted by Hannah Leigh

Amid the hustle and bustle of cities like Nottingham, a quiet revolution is taking place within the confines of small outdoor spaces. Landlords and tenants are playing a significant role in nurturing biodiversity and demonstrating that even the most modest patches of green can have far-reaching ecological implications. This commitment to urban nature recently manifested in the form of a remarkable garden design - the Renter’s Retreat at the RHS Hampton Court Garden Festival. Let's delve into how this initiative, and others like it, are making a profound difference and can inspire our cities of the future.

The Renter’s Retreat: A Gold-Medal Oasis of Biodiversity

The Renter’s Retreat, designed by Zoe Claymore, recently received a gold medal and the prestigious Best Get Started Garden award at the RHS Hampton Court Garden Festival. Judges were impressed by the garden's naturalistic and robust planting scheme, which showcases the potential for small outdoor spaces to contribute significantly to urban biodiversity.

The garden's central message is clear: everyone, regardless of property ownership, can play a pivotal role in supporting nature's recovery, especially in urban areas. With over seven million rented properties in England offering access to outdoor space, the Renter's Retreat stands as an inspiring example of how these areas can be transformed into havens for wildlife and relaxation.

The Renter’s Retreat provides a blueprint for converting even the smallest and shadiest of courtyards into flourishing wildlife habitats. The garden features an array of shade-tolerant plants, including herbs like coriander, water mint, and sorrel, native shade-dwelling plants like ferns, and fruit-bearing treasures such as wild strawberries and crab apples. By carefully selecting flowering and fruiting plants, the garden ensures a year-round food source for wildlife.

Landlords and Tenants as Heroes of Biodiversity

The gardens of rented properties contribute to a network of green oases that stretch across urban landscapes. These spaces are essential for wildlife movement, offering corridors that counteract habitat fragmentation caused by urbanization. Even if the garden's size may be limited, its impact can be profound. Private gardens collectively constitute a larger area than all of Britain's nature reserves combined, and with an estimated 4.4 million households living in rented accommodation this is clearly a huge area for opportunity.

Small interventions by landlords can therefore have remarkable effects. By providing tenants with access to outdoor spaces and the means to care for them landlords can become catalysts for a greater understanding and appreciation of biodiversity. As the Renter's Retreat demonstrates, these spaces can serve as a nexus of social interaction, well-being improvement, and ecological enrichment.

For tenants, the Renters Retreat provides inspiration in abundance. Zoe makes use of methods of planting that could be permanent or semi permanent and could be more easily moved around than traditional gardening techniques, for example she uses modular metal raised beds, pots and even includes a raised pond.

A Vision for the Future

The Renter’s Retreat's journey doesn't end with the festival. Most of the garden and its plantings will find a new home at the London Wildlife Trust’s Centre for Wildlife Gardening, where they will continue to serve as an exploration area for school groups. This educational component underscores the potential for gardens to inspire future generations to take active roles in preserving urban biodiversity.

In a world where green spaces are increasingly precious, landlords who encourage engagement with the outdoors and tenants who care for their gardens prove that small actions can yield monumental results. The Renter’s Retreat stands as a testament to the fact that anyone can contribute to the resurgence of urban nature, fostering connections between people, wildlife, and the ecosystems we share. It's a reminder that the harmony of city life and biodiversity need not be mutually exclusive; they can thrive together in the green corners of urban landscapes.


Hannah Leigh

BA (Hons), LLM (Hons)


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