A winter wonder for wildlife
The garden in its summer splendour is a celebrating thing, but the garden in winter, too, can be a thing of wonder and beauty.
In winter, evergreen plants enjoy their new prominence and we can admire the structures of deciduous plants. As wild sources of food deplete there’s a great opportunity to attract a wide variety of birds into your garden. The best news is that the simplest way to ensure a lively and beautiful winter garden is to do nothing. Tidying up the garden removes important overwintering locations which shelter and support insects, mammals and birds.
When leaves have fallen, it is time to appreciate the texture and form of bark and stems. In the GG garden we’re full of admiration for the bold pink stems of the blueberry bush and the rough, pale fig branches. In addition to their aesthetic value, leaving dry stems standing throughout the coldest months will provide a safe space for useful insects to shelter until spring. On a frosty morning they’ll look particularly spectacular, and as spring arrives and spiders begin their work, these stems can support a dew-laden web - surely one of the most beautiful sights in an early morning garden stroll.
Avoid pruning and tidying beneath shrubs and hedges, where accumulated twigs and foliage provide a safe, dry and warm shelter for wildlife. Resist the urge to sweep away leaves as they fall, and instead spread them over flowerbeds where they will form the ideal foraging habitat for ground-feeding birds such as thrushes, blackbirds and robins. Late-fruiting plants should be left well alone over winter; cherry, crab apple, medlar, quince and aronia all provide a valuable source of food, and the hips that form on unpruned rose bushes will also be appreciated .
Having saved the effort of tidying the garden, you’ll have some spare time to prepare food for peckish birds. General wild bird seed mixes will be enjoyed, but providing a range of specific foods will encourage a wider variety of birds into the garden. Wrens will gobble up finely chopped bacon rind or cheese, finches and nuthatches adore sunflower seeds, thrushes and blackbirds favour fruit and will be thankful for any overripe apples scattered onto the ground. When particularly bitter weather sets in and water becomes scarce, it’s important to provide a dish or basin of clean water. As well as relieving thirst it’s essential for birds to clean their feathers, which otherwise become less waterproof, and the bird will struggle to keep warm. Remember to position feeders and tables within sight of your window, so you can sit back with a cup of tea and watch the birds enjoying the buffet you’ve provided.