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Encouraging Birds into your garden

An article by our feature writer Christine Walkden

So often I am asked what my garden means to me and, at some stage, I will answer that it provides me with a haven to enjoy the animals and birds which come into it, along with the plants and the memories that all this evokes.


At one time I was not interested in birds that much and did very little to encourage them into my garden. A trip to South Africa changed that. I commented to one of the party that if the birds back home looked like those I was seeing in South Africa I would spend more time looking at them.

The person asked me if I had really looked at the birds in my garden properly and I have to admit that I had to say “No”.

“Once you get your eye in and look closely at garden bird you will be amazed at the colour, size and variety there are, all waiting to enhance your appreciation of nature. “

Goldfinches remind me of royal butlers dressed in fine outfits fit for a king, the gold, red and white making them look really regal. Greenfinches, with their olive green breasts, look great and, of course, when the great, blue and long tailed tits are in my garden I love it, such colours and characters.

Plant the garden with birds in mind

However, unless you have a wide range of plants that will provide shelter and food for the birds, you will get a few visitors, but nothing like the number you will see if you plant the garden with birds in mind.

Those plants with berries will not only illuminate the garden for you in the dark days of winter, but will provide a good source of food for the birds as well.

Cotoneasters are all good, strong growing plants coping with a very wide range of situations and soil types. Their beautiful green leaves provide host to lots of insect that the birds will enjoy during the summer as well as the contrasting berries in the autumn and winter. I always think that a holly hedge is so lovely, those shiny dark green leaves providing a good backcloth against which all your plants and flowers will look great and will provide a festive feast for a wide range of birds. Grown as a shrub it’s a great plant for a container which, when in berry, can be moved near a window so that you can see the fruit as well as the birds.

The Beauty Bush with lots clumps of violet fruit is a great plant both for the garden owner and the birds. It is one of the very last plants which birds will feed on in the winter, meaning that you have had the joy of winter sunshine illuminating this fantastic shrub for weeks and then the birds can have their turn when the other trees and shrubs have lost their fruit.

This is a plant that should be grown more often. A lot of people do not know it and that’s a great pity because it is such a super plant.

The Cherry Laurel is one of the best hedging plants and produces a white flower in upright spikes followed by a profusion of black fruits in the autumn. This is a lovely multi stemmed plant that not only produces lots of fruit but also provides dense shelter into which birds will often nest.

Several other easy trees and shrubs will also provide food for the birds, consider Elder, the Guelder Rose, Hawthorn, Honeysuckle, Ivy, Pyracantha, Rowans, Spindles and of course the Yew. Remember a garden should not only delight the gardener in terms of its plants but also its other visitors.

Enjoy both the colour and song of birds in your garden, alongside the pleasure that the plants give.

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