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Trees for birds

Hi all first time post, I have been lurking here for ages and gained lots of advice. Recently the land behind our house, which was asbestos garages with loads of tall trees growing through and around, has been cleared for building. The birds which were plentiful in the garden have dissapeared. We have space on the boundary fence for 2 trees. Having seen previous posts here we thought that we would plant 1 seven sons tree and 1 Van Toll Holly. Just wondering how big should we buy as it would be better cover for birds if it was larger to start. I know it's going to take a while but would the extra cost be worthwhile. 


  • Slow-wormSlow-worm Posts: 1,109
    What a shame. 😢
    What sort of birds used the trees/garden?
    For little birds, while your trees are growing you could put in a few (evergreen) bushes in, you could also add some fast climbers like ivy, jasmine or passion flower, and maybe put some nest boxes up.
    I'm not familiar with the trees you mentioned, sorry!
  • pansyfacepansyface Posts: 21,526
    edited 18 February
    A lot to think about when buying trees.

    Access for delivery driver being the first one. Trees grown in pots, big pots, are unwieldy things.

    Then who is going to dig the holes? You need to be fit. 

    Who is going to water them? They are going to need a lot of maintenance in the first year. The more mature the tree that you buy, the more maintenance it will require. Large trees need to be looked after like babies for quite some time.

    Wind rock - are they going to need massive stakes and, if so, is there space for them?

    And finally, cost. A truly mature tree is going to cost a fortune. A smaller tree will not offer much to your birds for several years. 

    Apophthegm -  a big word for a small thought.
    If you live in Derbyshire, as I do.
  • Thanks for your reply we've always had bluetits nesting and also a robin. We had lots of finches and tits, goldcrests grey wagtails by the pond and the regulars. We have honeysuckle and jasmine but the back is so open now the small birds don't visit the feeders. I was filling them up every other day but have since taken them down as it all went mouldy. 
  • thevictorianthevictorian Posts: 796
    edited 18 February
    Hi, it's a bit of a conumdrum as smaller plants tend to establish easier and can sometimes out grow those which are purchased at a larger size. The need/want for instant impact and cover is natural but it's possibly better to go smaller than you'd like so it is easier to establish. 
    If you have plenty of time to dictate to caring for the plants than you can perhaps go larger but if we get a hot dry summer again this year it might be very detrimental to them.

    It's a bit of a cop out answer but I'd try and see the trees before you buy so you know if they look manageable or not for you. 

    Last year I added two trees, a mulberry and a damson. They aren't that similar to what you would like but even with our hot dry norwich summer, they were easy enough to keep going (in a full sun, free draining soil site)  with only deep watering twice a week. They were both 6-8ft tall but not very bushy. So that might give you a rough idea of what is practical, I certainly wouldn't go much larger. 

    If you have space then look at some quick growing wildlife friendly climbing plants,  like honeysuckle.  These will help bring the wildlife in and do provide cover very quickly.
  • Thanks so much for the replies. I think I'm going to have to be patient, I really knew that would be the case but a quick fix would have been nice. Another honeysuckle will be ordered along with the smaller trees. Hopefully spring will bring the birds back again. 
  • Heptacodium miconioides (Seven Sons) is slow growing and more of a shrub than tree. That is fine (and I have one) but isn't likely to get big enough to feel like shelter for birds for quite a while.

    Rowan and Hawthorn are probably going to be better options for something that is quite quick to establish, hardy, birds like and is reasonably quick growing while also not getting huge. But whatever you get it isn't going to have the same effect as the mature trees for years. 

    If you want to buy bigger trees then as other posters have said, they need a lot of care, watering especially, and will take longer to establish the bigger they are. But you also don't have to go for a tiny sapling! Nurseries size them by trunk size a metre above the ground. You will see this written as eg. "8-10cm girth". I have found the 8-10 size is a good size for establishing quickly (it will start growing in its first year) and not needing too much water (so say, 1-2 cans per week, rather than more than that. Plus only tending to need watering for the first year). There is a lot of variation depending on the type of tree, your soil, your climate though.

    I'll post again later with a couple of examples once I find photos to give you an idea about growth rate.
  • DovefromaboveDovefromabove Posts: 82,737
    I have a Viburnum Bodnantense near the house which is full of Bluetits, robins, dunnocks and house sparrows at all times of the year. It’s about 7 ft tall and the scent is beautiful too. 

    On the fence close behind it is a Clematis Freckles that the small birds love too. The bluetits love the fluffy seedheads and the robins and dunnocks nest in it every year. 

    So add shrubs and climbers to your list.  They’ll keep the birds busy in your garden while your trees will take a bit longer to establish. 

    “I am not lost, for I know where I am. But however, where I am may be lost.” Winnie the Pooh

  • Slow-wormSlow-worm Posts: 1,109
    @davwensum how long ago did the trees get felled?
    It can also take a few weeks for the birds to come back, it must be a bit of a shock to have been roosting or nesting in those trees, and then suddenly it's all noisy, and they're gone and the land is unfamiliar.
    Keep putting the feed out though, so they know they have it, even if they're not eating it they'll remember, and they'll see it when they're flying around. I know it's going to be wasteful for a time, but that's what I'd do. 
  • Slow-wormSlow-worm Posts: 1,109
    I have a Viburnum Bodnantense near the house 

    Would they be OK in alkaline soil? 
  • Randommoose1Randommoose1 Posts: 88
    edited 18 February
    Hmm, I don't have as many matching photos over the years as I hoped! Hopefully this might help a bit for seeing growth rate.

    Sorbus Olympic Flame, bought 8-10cm in Nov 2019 (sorry no photo!), cost £80 bareroot from a local tree nursery. About 1.8m trunk (called "standard" or "clear stem") then about 1m above that with branches going about 50cm out sideways.

    Picture May 2020 after it had grown about 15cm on all the branches.

    Same tree Oct 2022, so 2.5 years older. The difference in size is much more obvious in person, taller, with trunk and branches thicker, more branches, lots more leaves. It flowered (bees like) and fruited (birds like) this year as well.

    This tree established very easily, partly as bare root, partly as it is a species without much water demand from the leaves, partly as it was a good size for how reliably I could water it. I watered it about 1-2 cans a week through the first year, didn't need to after that. It didn't even need the stake after the first year. 

    Ps that is the Heptacodium (Seven Sons) on the right of this picture.

    Betula Youngii (weeping silver birch). Bought at 4m tall from a specialist big tree nursery Feb 2019, cost £260 inc delivery. I specifically wanted one that had been trained upright to 4m then weeping downwards from there and that is expensive.

    Same tree May 2020, 1 and a bit years on from planting. It struggled in the first year, lots of leaves and some branches died as the change from non stop trickle watering at the nursery to my watering cans (even when daily) was hard on it. This tree has a lot of leaves for the small pot size it came in and its roots couldn't keep up with the water demand so it reduced the leaves/branches to survive. The trunk is a bit thicker and it is down to one stake instead of two.

    Sorry, I don't have any recent photos other than this! Oct 2022 (so 4 growing seasons). The trunk is much much thicker than when I got it and this last year the branching is denser and longer (hanging downwards) so more leaves. It won't get taller as it is weeping but it will get wider and branches grow more down towards the ground. So it took 3 years before the tree looked bigger than it did when it arrived. No stake any more. Watering yr1 generally daily (and that wasn't enough in summer), yr 2 a few times a week, yr 3, a couple of times a week during summer, yr 4 I gave it some in a heatwave but that was it. Big top heavy trees like this take a lot of effort 

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