Create a Wonderful Winter Haven for Birds

Birds can play a vital role in the garden’s ecosystem, from natural pest controllers to simply bringing joy and life to the garden. By choosing the right plants, you can produce both food and cover for garden birds all year round. There are lots of ways to give bird populations a boost, from creating nesting shelters to planting shrubs rich in berries.

In this week’s blog, we have listed the top bird-friendly shrubs to provide bird food and shelter to handy and simple crafts and tips to attract these wild visitors to the garden.

Top Bird-Friendly Shrubs

Holly Blue Angel

A classic winter wonder. Holly Blue Angel produces shiny evergreen foliage with an unusual blue tinge on the leaves and masses of red berries in the winter. When birds need a source of food in the winter, Holly berries are the perfect snack.

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Holly Hedging (Ilex aquifolium)

A brilliant evergreen hedging plant. It is slow growing, low maintenance and acts as a deterrent with its dense prickly barrier. With bright red and orange berries in winter, this native plant is a great source of food and shelter for birds.

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Pyracantha Victory

A robust Pyracantha. Producing masses of red berries in summer and clusters of white blossoms in summer, this decorative shrub adds plenty of interest for wildlife as a spot for nesting birds and they contain an abundance of pollen for bees.

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Pyracantha Golden Charmer

A beautiful and useful shrub. With sprinklings of white June blossoms followed by masses of golden berries, this multi-tasking plant is a great climbing, specimen or screening plant and is also well-loved by birds in the winter.

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Quickthorn/Hawthorn Hedging

This popular British Native hedge can withstand harsh winds and temperatures and the thick and thorny branches make an excellent barrier. Red berries appear during the autumn months to tempt hungry birds to the garden.

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Crataegus Pauls Scarlet

This robust little shrub blooms with beautiful pink spring blossoms amongst bright green foliage. Even in the winter, the stout, interweaving branches and their red berries act as a nesting sight and food source for birds.

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Virginia Creeper

This climbing vine is perfect for adding autumn colour to the garden. At different times of the year, this vigorous creeper provides fruit, caterpillars and nesting material for birds. Its dense leafy cover also makes great shelter.

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Boston Ivy

You won’t find a more dramatic sight in autumn than a Boston Ivy. Their leaves change from a summer green to a bright crimson in the autumn. This variety produces clusters of dark blue berries that are a perfect food source for hungry birds.

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Lonicera ‘Winter Beauty’

This winter-flowering Honeysuckle produces masses of fragrant, creamy-white flowers. In autumn, it provides berries and shelter for birds and in summer, the scented flowers attract insects; a great food source for birds.

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Lonicera Kamtschatica (Honeyberry)

When ripened in late-spring to early summer, Honeyberry fruit is a treat that shouldn’t be missed. This hardy, edible Honeysuckle is loved by birds and other wildlife for their delicious berries.

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Bird Gardening Tips

It’s easy to attract birds to the garden, here are some bird-friendly gardening tips that you can do in any outdoor space, big or small.

DIY Bird feeders/boxes

Turn your garden into a desirable home for birds from winter through to spring with a cosy nestbox. You can even make your own  mini nature reserve for them if you’re handy. The best weatherproof and secure material for constructing your own is wood.

Install feeders

Garden birds benefit  from feeding all year round. Place feeders high off the ground. Use wire mesh feeders for peanuts and seed feeders for other seed. Where cats are a problem, use a bird table where cats cannot reach. You can even make your own by simply using sticking bird seed to a toilet paper roll using peanut butter and using string to hang them from a branch.

Bird baths

Many birds will use bird baths and ponds for bathing, so urge birds to seek out your garden as their one-stop shop for their daily routines. Keep an eye on your bird bath over winter to ensure they don’t freeze over in the cold temperatures.

Attracting Wildlife to the Garden

Encouraging wildlife into your garden is a winner all-round. They can help out your garden plants and you would be doing a good deed for all those creatures in need of a home or food throughout the winter. Flying visitors such as birds, butterflies and bees are pretty to look at and help improve your garden’s production. Encourage hedgehogs, toads and frogs too – they act as fantastic pest control, reducing the need for pesticides.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here’s what you can do to turn your garden in to a wildlife haven.

Bees

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bees are great to have around the garden. You want them in your garden to feast off your flowers to make them continue to pollinate and keep your garden looking spectacular. Bees love blue, purple and yellow flowers and plants so keep that in mind when planning your garden displays.

Here are some tips to keep bees doing their jobs as pollinators:

  • Plant single flower plants as most double flowers make it difficult for the bees to get the pollen and nectar.
  • Avoid using pesticides wherever possible.
  • Provide water for pollinators using a shallow dish filled with stones/marbles and water to provide a safe water source.

Bee Friendly Plants

  • Dahlias
  • Asters
  • Sedums
  • Cornflower
  • Heather

Birds 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Provide nest boxes/wooden houses for birds to nest in. (Place near trees or bushes so the birds can make a short flight to safety).
  • Improve soil with well-rotted compost to introduce worms and slugs and other soil insects to provide food for birds.
  • A simple bird bathe will give the birds somewhere to bathe as well as doubling as a water supply.

Bird Friendly Plants

You can plant different shrubs/trees/flowers that will either provide food for birds in the form of seeds, berries or nectar, give shelter and warmth under dense foliage or they will attract insects which birds and other wildlife can feed off.

Here are some of our top choices:

  • Honeysuckle
  • Rowan
  • Viburnum Opulus
  • Holly

Ladybugs 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ladybugs are a great help in the garden for eliminating destructive and damaging crop pests like aphids, mites and scale. Here are some tips for attracting ladybugs to your garden:

  • There are several pollen plants that attract ladybugs that tend to be yellow and white, such as Angelica, Cosmos and Fennel.
  • Plant decoy plants what will attract aphids away from your desired bug free plants until the ladybugs remove them for you. Aphid attracting decoy plants could include: Early Cabbage, Marigold and Radish.

Ladybug Friendly Plants

Ladybugs eat two things: insect pests and pollen, and there are several pollen plants that ladybugs like, including:

  • Calendula
  • Chives
  • Cosmos
  • Marigold

Bats

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Did you know that attracting bats to your garden is one of the safest and most efficient methods for natural insect control? One little brown bat can eat 1,200 insects per hour!

A great bat attracting method is to build a bat house to provide a warm cosy shelter for the creatures. Since bats tend to set up colonies in the early spring, building a bat house is the perfect winter project! Some tips are:

  • Use a rough, nontoxic wood (such as plywood or cedar) to make your box. The rough surface will make it easier for bats to climb in and out of the house.
  • Place in a warm, sunny position for warmth
  • Keep it close to a freshwater source (pond, stream)
  • Support on a pole or the side of a building

Bat Friendly Plants

The key to attracting bats to your garden is to plant night-scented flowers, such as:

  • Yucca
  • Evening Primrose

Frogs  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Attracting frogs to your garden is beneficial for the welfare of your plants. Frogs make great inset killers so why not attract some garden frogs to help with those little pests.

  • Build toad houses – overturned flowerpots buried lightly in the soil make great shelters.
  • Avoid using pesticides in your garden. Frogs are sensitive to chemicals so use natural sources of nutrients in your garden such as compost.
  • Keep pets away from the part of the garden set up for attracting frogs.

Frog Friendly Plants

Toads and female frogs usually spend winter on land, under rockery stones (or in a log pile). Recommended rock plants are:

  • Aubretia
  • Hardy Geraniums
  • Sedums

Hedgehogs

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just like the shrew and the vole, the hedgehog is an insectivore with a voracious appetite. An adult hedgehog can eat up to 200 grams of insects per night, making the perfect pest controller in your garden. So, why not attract them to the garden with a few small tips and help these little creatures as their population has dropped in recent years. Here are some tips to draw these little creatures into your garden:

  • Leave areas of the garden naturally unkempt with fallen leaves, twigs and dead vegetation, which they can use to build nests.
  • Leave bowls of water out in the winter as hedgehogs drink lots of water. Top the water up regularly.
  • Avoid using slug pellets as they are fatal for hedgehogs

Hedgehog Friendly Plants

Hedges provide a great habitat for hedgehogs as they provide free access between gardens, unlike walls and fences. Species with large deciduous leaves are great for hedgehogs collecting leaves for their nests. Here are some top picks:

  • Beech
  • Berberis
  • Buddleia
  • Pyracantha

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How to: Attract Wildlife to the Garden

butterfly on violet scabiosa
Wild butterfly on a violet scabiosa

By allocating just a little bit of time and space to your garden this Autumn, you can easily attract various wildlife to your garden all year around. For many people wildlife is a welcomed addition to the garden providing extra character and also the knowledge that they are doing their bit to help with British conservation.

Online now you will find many varieties of plants and shrubs which will help you along the way, by both attracting and providing food/shelter for various forms of wildlife. Composting and letting a few patches of your garden grow a little wild will help to encourage visitors (and what gardener needs to be told the virtues of compost!).

If you have the space grow trees and big shrubs. By devoting even the smallest part of your garden to attracting wildlife you can turn it into a paradise for beneficial birds, mammals and insects.

bird hanging under peanut birdfeeder (goldfinch)Birds

Birds are attracted to areas where they find both food and shelter. A good way of doing so in the autumn/winter is by planting up shrubs and trees which produce berries, such as Ilex (Holly), Pyracantha or Gaultheria. Not only will they produce valuable food but they also produce some much needed ornamental value in the Winter months. A bird table is also a fantastic way of enticing birds into a specific area of the garden. Ornamental grasses are also a popular way of making the garden appealing to seed eating birds.

Butterflies

They will visit most gardens, especially if they find plants in sunny or sheltered locations. The secret here is to make available nectar rich, fragrant flowers which are colourful and from which they feed.

Perennail strip for Blog pollinatoors
Lavender, Buddleia, Syringa, Forsythia and Echinacea are just a few fantastic garden favourites for attracting butterflies and all look great in the garden!

SquirrelSquirrels

Of course, they are fascinating wildlife to watch as they scurry around during the day. They feed off acorns, buds, nuts, berries and seeds. They will initially appear scared and frightened but with regular feeding they will soon feel at home in your garden. They are easily found around woodland areas, large trees, beech tress and are especially attracted to your bird feeders, although take caution as they can damage them over time.

Toads

Provide water and shelter for Toads! These are great for keeping unwanted pests at bay and if you have a pond or one nearby its likely you already have Frogs and Toads living nearby. (If you have a dog remember Toads will release skin secretions which are toxic to dogs).

 

Hedgehogs

A pile of old logs or bricks, some overgrown grass or turned over empty pots can all help with providing shelter for animals – Hedgehogs will happily take advantage of your hospitality and thank you by eating pesky slugs and snails – an ideal natural defender of you Hosta plants!