Trees for wildlife

Posted: Friday 22 August 2014
by Kate Bradbury

For several years I've been battling with the gardeners of the communal garden in my block of flats, in a bid to encourage them to be a little more wildlife friendly.


For several years I've been battling with the gardeners of the communal garden in my block of flats, in a bid to encourage them to be a little more wildlife friendly.

I installed a compost bin, added some nectar- and pollen-rich flowers, sowed a strip of wildflowers and managed to get them to spend what little budget they had on two green roofs over the car park ventilation shafts.

I sent frustrated emails when the gardeners trampled over my spring bulbs, bargained with them over how much weedkiller to use and chased them as they hauled plastic bags of grass clippings to the bin.

But still the wildlife didn’t come. Why? Because there weren’t any trees.

I think trees are the magic ingredient in wildlife gardens. They provide a habitat for birds to hide from predators, shelter from the wind for insects and somewhere to hang your bird feeders. Trees also break up a garden, making them less barren open spaces and more like the woodland edge much of our garden wildlife has evolved to inhabit.

When I bought the flat the communal garden had three silver birch trees. They weren’t particularly healthy specimens and one of them died (although the gardeners still mulched it one autumn). The trees were eventually ripped out, only to be replaced with Trachycarpus fortunei.

If I could have a tree for a nemesis Trachycarpus Fortunei would be it. I hate it. But the gardeners seem to love it and have planted loads of them, to the detriment of virtually all wildlife except rats, crows and pigeons.

So I planted a tree. It’s not a very exciting tree, nor a native one. It’s a dark-leaved ornamental cherry, which was donated to me by a neighbour who was moving house.

For two years the tree looked like it would die, and the gardeners had their beady eyes on the planting hole, ready to fill it with another Trachycarpus fortunei. But then something wonderful happened: the cherry burst to life, and then, eventually, the wildlife came.

Looking out of my window now there are seven blackbirds hopping over the lawn, looking for insects. They take it in turns to land in the cherry tree to eat the fruit, disturbing the blue tits and great tits from the peanut feeder that hangs from one of the branches. Occasionally a flock of goldfinches comes for the seeds of wildflowers, and butterflies flit over the green roofs.

The dawn chorus now comprises blue tits, great tits, greenfinches and blackbirds, which are still occasionally drowned out by the call of seagulls but I can’t have everything. It’s taken five years but I have helped create a habitat for wildlife. I have a long way to go yet, but it’s nice that my efforts are finally paying off.





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happymarion 28/08/2014 at 14:12

Well done, Kate. Last winter was so mild and wet lots of sickly trees suddenly showed what they are made of. Trees and shrubs that had never flowered before did.