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Planting trees and hedging with berries: A boost for birds, animals and insects

Planting trees and hedging with berries: A boost for birds, animals and insects

If you’ve spotted hedgerows and trees festooned with berries, it’s a clear sign that we’re embracing Autumn.  Hedges, trees, shrubs and birds with a penchant for a berry have mutual dependence on each other for survival – the one to send its seeds far and wide, the other to feed itself and family throughout the winter months.

Looking for berry basics?   Here’s the lowdown and some perfect plants to berry you up this autumn.

Berries for food

They are such an important food source for birds when the ground becomes too frozen for worms, snails or insects.  They’re not only tasty for birds, they’re great sources of vitamins and energy for them.

Berries are clever

Berries have some tricks to pull the birds, too.   Their juicy fleshy pith, full of energy, gives the birds a welcome boost and enables them to eat, digest and distribute the seeds, ready for new germination.  The dry pith of an ivy, for example, can be as calorific as a Mars Bar! (See RSPB: Birds and Berries)

A newly-seeded juniper grows better after its seed has been digested and released by a bird – the digestive system removes natural chemicals that restrict growth.

Mistletoe seeds are annoyingly sticky when consumed by birds.  They have to resort to wiping them off on trees – they then fall and grow where they land!

Berries are beautiful

They are bright and colourful – an easy come-and-get-me sign for a bird passing over head.  Evergreens generally have red berries as these show up easier against their glossy leaves.  Black-coloured berries are most striking against the yellower or browner leaves.

Berries: Size matters

Some birds eat in flocks so will swarm on a berried bush – starlings and redwings, for example.  Others are more solitary eaters, like the thrush.  They also prefer the smaller berries of the rowan, just for the flesh, whereas finches like the seeds themselves so favour the hawthorn, cherries, wild plum or blackthorn.

Dog rose berries (hips) are HUGE – you’d be hard pushed to find a bird smaller than a blackbird feasting on these beauties.

Berries for animals

Berries have a whole other audience than our feathered friends.  Small woodland animals are vying for berry sustenance too – hedgehogs, badgers, mice, squirrels and even foxes.  Insects and butterflies also benefit when they source syrup from fallen berries.    If you spot some, why not bag them up, pop them in the freezer then put out on the winter bird table for a cold-weather feast?

Best for Berries?

If you’re looking for a trees and bushes with the widest berry appeal, here are our best berry buys:

Visit us online and use our plant filter to drill down to the perfect variety for your planting project.

Cell grown or bare root, berry or foliage, trees or hedging – we’re here to help you choose, whatever you need this season.