Gardening with Children

School Zone

Plant shrubs and trees for birds and wildlife during Winter

Date Posted: 01 October 2016

Winter can be a critical time for birds, they need a good and regular supply of food to maintain their body temperature and to survive.

We all know the importance of putting out bird feeders filled with rich, high fat food but why not go one step further and grow plants and trees in your garden that not only look attractive but will provide birds and other wildlife with a source of natural food such as seeds and berries each year.

Growing a wide range of plants will provide food over a longer period of time and also attract more species of birds, Autumn is the ideal time to plant shrubs/trees, bare root specimens are the cheapest option.  

Here are some well-known plants and trees that provide seeds and berries:

Plants for Seed

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Teasel

Tall, architectural plants for the back of a border, often found growing wild in drifts on wasteland or by the side of the motorway. The Teasel is a native biennial which has purple flower heads in Summer, providing food for bees, butterflies and insects, which turn brown and spikey in Autumn and contain thousands of small oblong seeds which the birds prise out, they are eaten by Sparrows, Buntings and Finches, and especially loved by Goldfinches. 

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Globe Thistle

A clump forming border perennial that has Globe-shaped blue flower heads in Summer which are loved by bees, butterflies and insects and then in Autumn are filled with brown seeds that attract Finches.

Sunflower and Bee

Sunflowers

A common sight in many gardens this Annual is very easy to grow from Seed each year in Spring, there are many varieties available, choose those with a large flower with a big centre, in Summer the flowers provide pollen and nectar for bees, butterflies and insects which then turn into hundreds of tightly packed seeds containing an oil-rich centre, making them ideal for birds in Winter. They prefer a sunny position and may need support as some varieties can grow up to 3m in height, the seeds attract Blue Tits, Great Tits, Long Tailed Tits, Nuthatches, Chaffinches, Goldfinches, Siskins and Greenfinches.

Shrubs for berries

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Ivy

Ivy often makes its own way into the garden and has a reputation for being a problem as it spreads quickly, pruning will keep it under control. Ivy produces flowers in late autumn that insects love and which provide a valuable late source of nectar, these insects are food for Robins and Wrens. The black berries appear mid-winter and feed a wide variety of birds including Thrushes, Waxwings, Starlings, Jays, Finches and Blackbirds, the dense evergreen foliage provides shelter for birds, wildlife and insects.

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Honeysuckle

Honeysuckles can flower from Spring to late Summer, their wonderfully fragrant flowers are loved by bees, butterflies and insects and will bear red, orange or black berries in Winter which are picked off by the birds including Thrushes, Warblers and Bullfinches. Winter-flowering honeysuckle produces flowers in the depths of winter that are filled with nectar, attracting plenty of tasty insects for the birds.

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Pyracantha

An evergreen shrub with thorny stems that can be trained as a climber, bearing white flowers in Summer followed by clusters of red, yellow or orange berries. It can cope with exposed positions and is commonly grown as a hedge which once established provides shelter for birds; its other name is ‘firethorn’ because the bright berries look like flames, a favourite of Blackbirds, Thrushes and Waxwings.

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Cotoneaster

Another shrub that produces lots of red berries which cover its arching branches, it can be grown against walls or will happily cascade over them, like Pyracantha the berries are a favourite of Blackbirds, Thrushes and Waxwings. The white flowers are a magnet for bees and as it doesn't have any thorns is child friendly.

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Shrub Roses

There are many varieties of roses that produce different sizes of ‘hips’, the large hips are favoured by Blackbirds, Fieldfares and Mistle Thrushes, the smaller hips are eaten by a wide variety of other birds.

Trees for berries

Rowan (Sorbus)

Producing bunches of berries from August to November, birds such as Blackbirds, Starlings and Waxwing feast on the red berried varieties but leave the white-berried ones untouched. The Rowan makes an ideal choice for a small to medium garden.

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Holly

Holly bushes/trees are great for evergreen garden colour and produce red berries in winter that Song Thrushes, Blackbirds, Fieldfares and Redwings love, they tend to eat them towards the end of winter when they have eaten all other berries. The female plant produces the berries but there needs to be a male plant nearby to ensure pollination. The prickly leaves give birds protection from predators, and provide a safe roost amongst the branches.

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Hawthorn

Also known as the May-Tree as in May it is covered in fragrant, pollen and nectar rich, white or pink flowers, which turn into red 'haws' in Autumn, it is a tough plant that can be grown as a hedge or if left unpruned a small tree. Dense prickly hedges offer a safe nesting site for many birds and the leaves are a food plant for moth caterpillars, which feed the young birds in Spring. The haws are a favourite with Blackbirds, Redwings, and Fieldfares but are also eaten by Chaffinches, Starlings, Greenfinches and Yellowhammers.

Love your environment – Love wildlife

 

 

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