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Underplanting Silver Birch trees

Suggestions for wildlife friendly, native shrubs or small trees to plant under 3 x potentially 10 - 15 metre tall silver birch trees please. At the moment the trees are saplings,  just a couple of metres tall. The space we have between them is 4 - 5 metres wide, and I feel that a slim plant between each tree would in time help to fill the gap between each tree. At the moment I have some privet or oleria hedging going spare, and I would appreciate more interesting and colourful suggestions. Thanks


  • Lizzie27Lizzie27 Posts: 12,367
    Are the birches planted in a line or as a triangle @Guernsey Donkey2 ? I  think birches look more pleasing without any other plants nearby so you can appreciate the beauty of their trunks.  However if these are part of your long time screening project from the newbuilds the other side of your field, I understand where you are coming from. What about hollies, rowans or buddleia?
    North East Somerset - Clay soil over limestone
  • LoxleyLoxley Posts: 5,681
    I like this one 
    Image result for hilliers winter garden
    Ruscus aculeatus and miscanthus (you could substitute Deschampsia cespitosa if you want a UK native).

    I think a simple mat of Polypodium vulgare with the occasional Helleborus foetidus would look nice.

    But you want taller things to fill in the gaps... How about Euonymus europaeus or purple hazel?
    "What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbour". 
  • BenCottoBenCotto Posts: 4,668
    My stand of silver birches is simply under planted with rough grass in which some of the more attractive and better behaved wild flowers are allowed to colonise, and in spring there are numerous snowdrops, narcissus actaea and then English bluebells.
    Rutland, England
  • I agree @Lizzie27 that silver birches look better when grouped in threes, we are planning to plant three of them in a line with gaps between for something like a large shrub or small tree..  These silver birch will help to blot out the windows in time (not our time).  In the meantime we like the idea of the purple hazel Coryus maxima @WillDB. Thanks for all your helpful comments.

  • BenCottoBenCotto Posts: 4,668
    Here are our silver birches showing the simplicity of just using grass for underplanting

    Rutland, England
  • What a beautiful setting @BenCotto, they are such serene trees, and ideal here.  Our silver birch are going to be used as a screen, here in your garden they are a feature to be proud of.
  • LoxleyLoxley Posts: 5,681
    If you are brave you can coppice your birches and train them as multistems, which may suit your screening requirements better (in time).
    "What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbour". 
  • Guernsey Donkey2Guernsey Donkey2 Posts: 6,713
    edited October 2019
    That's a brilliant idea @WillDB .  I will make a mental note to do that (in time).  We will be putting a screen of goat willow behind the trees, just in front of the stock fencing we have had put up recently.  I also have a few rooted Buddleia shrubs, which will add colour in the summer but don't grow particularly tall here.
  • ObelixxObelixx Posts: 30,003
    Silver birch are shallow rooted and that will make life very difficult for shrubs as the trees mature.   I would stick to some cheerful spring daffs that you can get established now and will spread and maybe some ground cover that likes dry shade such as epimediums which also flower in spring but have lovely foliage later on thru which you could grow autumn crocuses.

    I would be very wary of planting goat willow.  It is a very unattractive plant with thuggish tendencies and you'll be forever trimming it and digging up seedlings and saplings.    Try something better behaved and ornamental too for a screen you'll like and that is useful to wildlife too.

    I would urge you to look at using builders' metal mesh for reinforcing concrete to create a cheap, unobtrusive boundary.  Support it on sturdy posts with their feet in concrete and then train spiky plants such as pyracantha along it.  It's evergreen, has blossom for nectar and colour in spring, berries for colour and birds in autumn.   Berries can be yellow, orange or red depending on variety and it's a cheap plant to buy too.  The spiky thorns will deter unwanted intruders from the other side if you're worried about marauding children.  Add a couple of dog roses or other ramblers such as Kiftsgate, Rambling Rector or Wedding Day and you'll have flowers in early summer too followed by lovely hips - and more anti-intruder thorns.

    Vendée - 20kms from Atlantic coast.
    "We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing." - George Bernard Shaw
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