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Blank garden canvass; planting for birds and wildlife

Having just moved into a new build, I'm eager to encourage wildlife, the garden feels so 'sanitised'. 

When we first moved in I couldn't believe how many cats were in the neighbourhood. On a 20 minute walk with my 'none-too-keen-on-cats' dog, who has an uncanny ability to spot a feline from wherever it's hiding, we used to come across half-doz moggies/queenies on our walk. Strangely enough, we've not seen one for several weeks now, even the fluffy ginger one that would cheekily stare out our Rusty from his 'perch' on the fence hasn't paid us a visit of late. But... we know they are still there.....

So if I want to encourage wild birds to visit our garden, I need to make sure they will be as safe as possible. 

I've a plan to create a round 1.5 (ish) metre flower bed in the middle of the garden which will be far enough away from fencing that can act as a launching pad for pouncing puddy-cats. 

A bird feeding station and bird bath will be erected within this round bed, which is in full view from our dining table on is the other side of the patio doors. I'm thinking of shrubs and plants that are thorny which will protect the birds while distracting our 'furry friends'. 

Holly, berberis, thorny roses comes to mind. I don't mind how tall the shrubs will grow, but those with wide girths would be problematic.

I'm itching to start digging the bed in a full circle, though the bed I'm anticipating will end up being a semi-circle as the patio is extended by two rows when time and £s will allow. To clarify; the round bed will 'grow' into a semi-circle, not retract.

Wondering what would you plant in the bed? Thanks for your advice  :)

Trying to be the person my dog thinks I am! 

Cambridgeshire/Norfolk border.


  • FairygirlFairygirl Posts: 53,910
    edited December 2021
    Nothing you plant will deter cats IME, and they'll just use the shrubs to hide in too.

    You need either a water scarecrow [no use during winter unless you live in a frost free area] and/or one of the sonic deterrents. I've been trying the Voss one, after a recommendation from another forum member. I've yet to be completely convinced, but I can't use the former for about 5 or 6 months of the year, so I'm persevering.
    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....

    I live in west central Scotland - not where that photo is...
  • PosyPosy Posts: 3,601
    There are all sorts of wildlife that will love to have a friendly garden and I would concentrate on them, if I were you. Many cats live near me so I never put out food or make any attempt to attract birds, because it just seems unfair. I still see lots but they make that decision freely, knowing what predators might be around. The garden is teeming with interesting wild things and they are just as deserving as the birds!
  • Lizzie27Lizzie27 Posts: 11,617
    Our bird feeders hang in the magnolia tree which we can see  from the living room and lots of birds feed there. There are about six neighbouring cats who come into the garden at different times, one of which, a big fluffy tabby actually climbs up the tree. It doesn't seem to deter the birds, they just wait till it's gone. We've been here nearly 15 years, I've seen very few dead birds or their remains in the garden.

    I wouldn't let the cats put you off.
    North East Somerset - Clay soil over limestone
  • RedwingRedwing Posts: 1,439
    Dogs are pretty bad for birds too. It's already anti cat but I don't want to turn your thread into a "cats are good dogs are bad" thread or the other way around but you can rule out any ground nesting or low to the the ground nesting species if you've got a dog. 

    Making a pond is very good for wildlife and is the single best thing that you can do to encourage wildlife.  I recommend this book:

    It lists plants that are good for attracting wildlife but more importantly it makes suggestions for those plants specific to the species you hope to attract. 
    Based in Sussex, I garden to encourage as many birds to my garden as possible.
  • Sorry Redwing I tried very hard not to make the thread anti-cat. I know very well the nature of cats, and dogs for that matter. Their nature is what it is, and we've got no business trying to change that. I'm simply trying to find a 'work-around'.

    Thank you for your thoughts everyone, I'm always open to ideas. I like the idea of a sonar repellent, must have a Google about them.

    I don't have a tree (yet) though to safely hang bird food.  

    My thread was really about grouping several prickly and dense shrubs together in a pleasing natural way. Maybe forum users have such a bed that's proving successful? 
    Trying to be the person my dog thinks I am! 

    Cambridgeshire/Norfolk border.
  • PosyPosy Posts: 3,601
    Berberis is wicked stuff which comes in various colours and can be trimmed to suit your space. Beware the trimmings, though. Pyracantha has lots of advantages for wildlife and comes with thorns. I love rugosa roses, spiky as you could wish, but inclined to sucker. Pretty flowers and hips. 
  • FairygirlFairygirl Posts: 53,910
    It doesn't work though. The bottom would all need to be blocked off with a solid barrier, or chicken wire, or similar.  All prickly dense shrubs have gaps at the base, whether it's pyracantha, berberis, mahonia, holly or anything else. 

    How would you access the area to fill feeders? If it's low enough to reach in, it's low enough for animals to jump over.
    If you make it higher, you'll need access. A gate or similar. Unless that's huge - again, animals [of all kinds] will just jump over it. 
    A space that small is better in the open,  without cover for predating animals to hide in. 

    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....

    I live in west central Scotland - not where that photo is...
  • PosyPosy Posts: 3,601
    I agree with @Fairygirl. If you are concerned about all the cats, don't feed the birds. There are pages and pages about cats and wildlife on this site, often passionately argued, but on a practical level it comes down to your common sense. There are cats. If you are worried about them, avoid attracting birds into your garden.
  • FairygirlFairygirl Posts: 53,910
    I do feed birds, and we would get them in the garden anyway, because of our location, but I take measures to protect the feeding areas. The ground feeder is in an open site, as is the pond, and there are trees and shrubs nearby for them to hide in, as well as the aforementioned scarecrow/sonic doofer.
    It works well probably about 90% of the time. The gadgets are mainly for preventing the inevitable and relentless cr*pping more than anything else. 
    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....

    I live in west central Scotland - not where that photo is...
  • Rather than directly feeding the birds in one spot that then attracts the neighbourhood cats to the same place I think it is a good idea just to select plants for the garden that feed the birds more naturally. Aronia melanocarpa, gooseberry, cotoneaster, pyracantha, currants, crab apple, haw thorn and many other nice plants will produce fruit and seed that birds can make use of and since it is more dispersed in the garden they can pick their time to collect the food when it is clear that cats are not waiting for them. Once the garden is more established caterpillars and some other plant pests will also provide food for some types of birds so attracting them into your garden should also help your plants. A water feature in the middle that is free of hiding spots for cats might work well as a bird bath and as others have mentioned adding a pond is one of the best things we can do for wildlife in a garden.

    Happy gardening!
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