Wildflower meadow full of early annual flowers

Relinquish control and let colourful chaos reign in the garden
Image: Annual Early Flowering Mixed Seeds from T&M

Chaos gardening is the hot new trend of 2023. Think rewilding but with more colour, more intent and a bit of light design. A great way to get rid of extra seeds and avoid waste, we’ve pulled together a collection of helpful articles, videos and Insta posts to help you channel some chaos in your own outside space. 

When you’re ready to get started, browse our full range of quality seeds at Thompson & Morgan for fruit, veg, and flowers.

What is chaos gardening?

Chaos garden harvests

Some of the crops grown in a successful chaos garden
Image: RegenBen

Over at RegenBen, farmer Ben Taylor-Davies (who is also a consultant in regenerative agricultural techniques) explains the simple principle behind chaos gardening: “You take as many annual vegetable, salad and fruit plant seeds as you can find, mix them all together and randomly throw them all over the ground, rake them in to avoid bird, insect and small rodent predation and watch the whole chaos of plants grow all amongst each other.

Particularly interested in growing crops with minimal artificial input, Ben says that the diversity of this approach makes best use of the available soil, crowds out weeds and encourages a good variety of predatory insects to help with pest control. Visit his post for a full and fascinating explanation.

Create some chaos at the allotment by mixing flowers and veg

Purple agastache flowers

Liz Zorab loves the aniseed aroma that her Agastache flowers give off
Image: Agastache Little Adder from Thompson & Morgan

As part of Huw Richard’s inspiring gardens series on YouTube, he interviewed Liz Zorab to discuss her new veg patch which is bursting with flowers and vegetables in equal measure. Deliberately including plenty of bright colour, she said: “When I started planning this vegetable garden, one of the first things I was going to do was get as many annual flowers into the beds as possible to bring me joy.” Companion planting has been practised for many centuries, but giving over so much allotment space to flowers is another example of chaos gardening at its best. Watch Huw’s full series for inspiration and advice.

Chaos gardens evolved from traditional cottage gardens of the past

Rudbeckia flowers outside cottage garden

Use chaos gardening to introduce more colour, more useful plants and lots of height into your cottage garden
Image: GrowVeg.com

Chaos gardening may be a new buzzword, but the theory has its roots in traditional cottage gardens, writes Ann Marie Hendry at GrowVeg.com. Essential to the survival of poor labourers in the middle ages, the chaotic mix of herbs, flowers and vegetables in cottage gardens of the past would have been packed densely into beds and borders covering every inch of soil with no seeds wasted. Modern chaos gardens aren’t entirely maintenance-free. Ann Marie recommends cutting back “anything that threatens to completely engulf neighbouring plants, or transplant self-seeded annuals to a more favourable location if they pop up just where you don’t want them.

Sustainability is an important part of chaos gardening

Entomological garden wall of bug hotels

A detail of Tom Massey’s entomological show garden at Chelsea 2023
Image: Tom Massey

One of the hot topics at this year’s Chelsea Flower Show was sustainability. Designer Tom Massey’s award winning entomology garden stars ‘weeds’, leaf litter, insect homes and flowering plants placed with naturalistic design. It’s a great example of what a nature-friendly chaos garden looks like. Follow him at @tommasseyuk to keep up with his exciting journey.

Pre-mix your flower seeds for effortless chaos

Chair and table next to mini wildflower meadow

Johanna’s gorgeous patch contains a glorious mix of wildflowers and non-natives
Image: @bobbiostudio

Want to start your own chaos garden? Native wildflowers are an easy way to begin, says YouTuber Johanna Bobbio at Bobbio Studio. She used a couple of pre-made wildflower mixes but threw in extra seeds including Californian poppy ‘Peach Sorbet’, cornflower ‘Black Ball’ and cornflower ‘Blue Diadem’ to give her new patch a dense mix of colours. Not to let anything go to waste, she also added poppy seeds she had collected herself.

Watch Johanna’s excellent video to see how she replaces a small circular lawn with a mini meadow. Her top tip? Pre-mix your flower seeds together in a bowl before sowing for an even distribution. See the gloriously chaotic result on Insta over at @bobbiostudio.

Enjoy a varied colour palette and chaotic clashes

Dark and light blue nigella flowers

Introduce electric blue into the mix with Nigella damascena ‘Moody Blue’
Image: Nigella damascena ‘Moody Blues’ from T&M

There are no rules for chaos gardening! But if you need a bit of help choosing the best flowers to start from seed, check out Sue Sanderson’s handy top 10 at the Thompson and Morgan blog. Nigella, aquilegia and Californian poppies are ideal candidates for scattering over your flower beds to create an eye-catching surge of summer colours.

Have fun crafting your own chaos gardening seed ‘bombs’

Red clay seed bombs

Craft your own seed bombs from clay, compost and your chosen seeds
Image: Shutterstock

There’s nothing quite as chaotic as making your own seed bombs and allowing them to germinate where they will! Try getting kids involved in the holidays for a “fun, messy play activity that will hopefully lead to some beautiful flowers blooming,” says the knowledgeable team behind the Hammersmith Community Garden. The clay keeps all the seeds together so it’s super easy to inject a mix of colour into hard to reach areas. Read the full post for an easy recipe to help you create your own colour explosions.

Introduce easy chaos to established gardens by allowing seed heads to form

Purple alliums in garden

Both Allium ‘Purple Sensation’ and Allium Christophii self-seed vigorously in Alexandra’s garden
Image: The Middlesized Garden

If you want to allow your established garden a little more room for natural chaos, self-seeders like allium ‘Purple Sensation’ and Allium christophii do lots of the work for you! Just allow the seed heads to develop in autumn for their progeny to germinate in spring, says popular garden blogger Alexandra at The Middlesized Garden. She loves seeing the purple spires appear in new places. Find 25 self-seeders for shade, foliage and even the veg patch in Alexandra’s excellent and informative article.

Invite friendly insects to enjoy the chaos

Ladybirds on leaves and branches

Chaos gardening creates ‘messy’ spaces where friendly mini beasts thrive
Image: @louisefindlaywilson

If tidying isn’t your cup of tea then chaos gardening is the trend for you! Leaving spent flower heads where they are after the summer flush not only encourages self-seeding, it’s great for wildlife too, says the tidy-averse @louisefindlaywilson. She found 19 colourful ladybirds on last year’s nepeta stems! Check out Louise’s blog Blooming Lucky for more insights into her thriving Cotswolds garden.

Lock up your lawnmover to see what naturally emerges

Woman showing flowers blooming from nettles

Take part in no-mow May to discover the flowers hiding in your lawn
Image: Sow Much More

Are you after the laid back look of chaos gardening but don’t fancy sowing? Expert garden journalist Becky Searle recently took part in #NoMowMay to see what would happen. It’s exactly what it sounds like – allow your grass to grow out for a month and watch to see which flowers pop up! If you don’t want to lose the entire lawn, you could always mow a section in the centre and allow the corners and edges to grow up. Visit Sow Much More andwatch Becky’s video to see what she discovered when she gave it a go.

Enjoy repeat colour every year with self-seeding flowers

Self-seeded meadow in Tower Of London

Look at the Tower of London’s ‘Moat in Bloom’ for a masterclass in self-seeded chaotic colour
Image: @nigel.dunnett

Revisiting his spectacular ‘Superbloom’ Jubilee garden, top designer @nigel.dunnett notes just how successful the self-seeding has been. In the second year of its life, the naturalistic planting at the Tower of London has a wholly new layout of randomised colours and forms keeping the display fresh and exciting. It’s truly a living art installation! Follow this designer’s Instagram and you’ll never lack for spectacular garden design ideas and insights.

We hope these ideas will help you embrace the colourful chaos in your garden! Share how you’ve incorporated chaos gardening into your outside space over on Instagram and Twitter. We love to see how you grow!

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