Gone are the days of HOA grass-height regulations, picket fences, and perfectly trimmed shrubs—it’s time to let your yards run wild (literally). The New York Times recently highlighted Appleton, Wisconsin’s “No Mow May” initiative, which encourages homeowners to forgo a weekly trim in order to benefit local ecosystems and allow bumblebees to do their job. 

Increasingly popular in Europe and gaining traction in the U.S. (look at the High Line), a natural garden is classified as a landscaping technique that uses geographically indigenous grasses, flowers, and trees. Not only is this approach low-maintenance and better for the environment, but contrary to what you might think, these types of outdoor spaces don’t have to appear unkempt. (Just flip through Phaidon’s Wild: The Naturalistic Garden, which was published at the end of February.) We get that the idea of an unmanicured lawn makes most people anxious. That’s why we gathered a few examples of free-flowing yards that still have plenty of curb appeal.

Leave It to the Pistils

Photography by Claire Takacs, Courtesy of Wild: The Naturalistic Garden.

For a truly unstuffy look, use self-seeding plants (in other words, ones that reproduce spontaneously on their own) for an increasingly “random” configuration that will evolve beautifully over time. 

Focus on Layering

Photography by Claire Takacs, Courtesy of Wild: The Naturalistic Garden.

Combine perennials, bulbs, and shrubs in order to maximize flower numbers throughout the year. This format not only increases the feeding opportunities for insects, it also provides shelter to invertebrates and birds.

Play to Coarse Advantages

Photography by Greta Rybus

On Wheaton Island, off the coast of Maine, Bo Bartlett and Betsey Eby’s blueberry bushes and windswept pines act as their personal doormat, preventing them from tracking mud and debris inside. “The landscape is in control of itself. We are definitely not in control of it,” says Bartlett. 

Contrast Ideas

Photography by Claire Takacs, Courtesy of Wild: The Naturalistic Garden.

If a wildwood jungle isn’t your style, consider pairing geometric topiaries with overgrown grasses and wildflowers to keep things in place while still letting the environment roam. 

Carve a Path

Photography by Caitlin Atkinson

Stepping stones create a walkway through this California home’s (mostly) native, “wild meadow–ish, sage-ish, buckwheat-ish” front yard. Terremoto Landscaping encourages us to put down the pruning shears and pick up a bird feeder.

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