Plants that produce berries in the autumn and winter have a two-fold benefit in the garden. From a human point of view, they are a splash of colour at a bleak time of year when any bright shades in the garden are a welcome sight. From a bird’s point of view, they are a vital source of food when other fruits are scarce.
There is a large choice of trees and shrubs available for us to plant out in the garden; we have selected a dozen of the best for you, to get you started:
1. Elderberry – easily the most useful of the dozen to both us and wildlife. The flowers in early summer are always alive with pollinating insects, and in the autumn, when the juice filled deep purple berries appear in their heavy clusters, a free for all birds takes place as they start to fatten themselves up for the winter.
2. Holly – A traditional winter sight in the hedgerows as the bright red berries signify the festive season, this prickly evergreen makes for a perfect protective nesting site as well as the berries being a favourite of blackbirds, thrushes, redwings and fieldfares.
3. Cotoneaster – a popular stand alone specimen tree as well as very useful as a hedge, these are usually evergreen too, making them ideal for nesting and roosting. In Autumn the clusters of bright berries hanging down from the stems are most welcome to the birds.
4. Viburnum – The Guelder Rose – a native UK shrub that bears bright red berries on bare stems throughout the winter months; it makes an excellent hedging plant that also has a smothering of snowball like flowers appearing in clusters during early summer, favoured by thrushes and bullfinches.
5. Skimmia –a relatively small shrub that can be grown in a large pot on the patio, skimmias are hardy and evergreen, have clusters of pink tinged flowers in the spring followed by a generous covering of glossy red berries that can last well into the winter months.
6. Shrub Rose – as well as being a perfect security hedging plant, the shrub rose produces a large quantity of fleshy hips that container seeds inside, rosa rugosa will have much larger hips which blackbirds, thrushes and fieldfares adore whilst dog rose, rosa canina, will have smaller hips which are more suitable for finches.
7. Wild Cherry – a stunning shrub in spring when it is completely covered in white flowers to brighten up and beautify any hedgerow, the wild cherry, also known as the bird cherry, will later carry thousands of small, bright red cherries that are absolutely loved by birds of all varieties, even ground feeders will happily pick up fallen fruits.
8. Crab Apple – whilst also making a beautiful ornamental addition to your outdoor space, with its dramatic floral display in the spring and often with coloured foliage during the summer, crab-apples also heavily crops large quantities of fruit in the autumn and winter, smaller fruits are easier for birds to eat whole, however they will also peck at the fleas of larger apples too.
9. Pyracantha – firethorn is a fantastic all-round plant for wildlife, its dense evergreen, extremely thorny growth offers perfect protection for birds to roost and nest in and from mid autumn onwards. Vast quantities of red or yellow berries almost cover the shrub, making it a perfect haven for smaller birds, including sparrows, starlings and finches, who will greatly appreciate its winter feast.
10. Cornus – Dogwoods are an ideal garden plant, best known for the bright stems that shine out in winter, with fiery shades to warm the garden. It is also listed as a RHS perfect for pollinators shrub for its copious flowers in spring, which in turn form berries later in the year – providing plenty to eat for our birds.
11. Mahonia – also known as the Oregon grape because of its large racemes of bright yellow flowers which later become large blue/black berries , much appreciated by blackbirds and thrushes
12. Rowan – berries start to appear on these trees from July to November, depending on which variety you choose to grow, and hold onto them well into the winter months, commonly visited by blackbirds and starlings.
There are other varieties of shrubs too as well as annuals which produce wonderful seedheads that the birds will love. You can also supplement your local birds’ diets by choosing from our birdcare range. What better way to bring nature into your own back garden?