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Apple tree vs wildlife garden?



I've come to these hallowed forums to ask some advice from seasoned gardeners. We bought a Victorian Terrace, which despite being north-facing has a section further away from the house that gets full sun. Unfortunately, right bang in the middle of the garden where I'd like to developed into a herb/ wildlife garden is this apple tree. It's a bit lop-sided due to neighbours pruning their side heavily, but it still grows rampantly and provides for a lot of insects.

The section of the garden i'm hoping to develop is roughly 6m x4m, leaving this area in dappled shade for a portion of the day. 

I know how useful apple trees are for wildlife and it would pain me to chop it down as it is pretty and useful in its own right; however, i've always loved gardening and as it's my first place, keeping the tree really doesn't give me much scope to grow the plants I want to grow. I know there's options for ground cover such as lady's smock and wild garlic that I could grow, but id lack the scope to plant the diversity i'd like.

My plan is to develop a kitchen-come-wildlife garden with beneficial plants(agastache/bee balm/white & mountain cornflowers etc.)  as well as perennial herbs ( thyme, hyssop, borage etc.), and the odd kitchen green (kale, sorrel etc.). I really like the idea of a garden that firstly supports wildlife, but provides some items for my family to enjoy. 

Would this sort of garden provide more for wildlife in the long run than the apple tree? What would you do?

Thanks for any input. image






  • darren636darren636 Posts: 666
    Although apple blossom brief, there's not much better than gorgeous flowers with the hum of hundreds of bees

    Coming and going.

    I don't think I could chop down a healthy apple.
  • DovefromaboveDovefromabove Central Norfolk UKPosts: 82,141

    At our last home our neighbours cut down a mature apple tree - the consequent reduction in bird-life in the surrounding gardens was noticeable, and in fact was evidenced by the lower numbers I recorded in following years for the Big Garden Birdwatch.

    However, I'm sure you could lighten the canopy by judicious pruning of the branches at the right time of year - this should allow you enough light to grow the other plants you want - and it will probably be really good for the apple tree too image

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

  • Blue OnionBlue Onion Posts: 2,931

    I'm with Dove, give it a bit of a gentle pruning to lighten the area but keep the tree.  Bird and wild life thrive in that sort of environment.  From the bees on the blossoms in the spring to the blackbirds enjoying the windfall apples in autumn.. and the habitat it provides year round.  Save the pruning and tuck them into a corner for hedgehogs, beetles, and toads.  

    Utah, USA.
  • pansyfacepansyface PEAK DISTRICT DerbyshirePosts: 21,185

    If wild garlic is something that you want to grow then I would grow it in a container as it's very invasive.

    Apophthegm -  a big word for a small thought.
  • ecokidecokid Posts: 138

    Thanks for the replies folks, I appreciate the input. 


    We've been here 2 years so far, but I hadn't the heart to cut the tree down. It's currently in bloom and looking/smelling wonderful. I will try and trim it back and perhaps try and plant light shade loving plants. Birdlife is minimal though as we're sandwiched in between two roads (one which is very busy). Sadly, I've only seen a blackbird since moving here.image

    Has anyone got any suggestions to what to plant immediately under the tree? I'll plant some crocus/daffodil for the spring bloom, but any one got any ideas what would be good for the remainder of the year? Soil is sandy.



  • DovefromaboveDovefromabove Central Norfolk UKPosts: 82,141

    I find that the hardy geranium Phaeum is very happy planted in the shade of our large trees, it's already in flower and will be loved by the bees and hover flies etc all through the summer.   It's easy to grow and isn't eaten by slugs and snails, and comes back every year providing good groundcover - it spreads gently without becoming invasive.

    Another one for nectar for early bees is pulmonaria, as long as the ground isn't too dry.

    I'm sure others will come along with more suggestions. 

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

  • darren636darren636 Posts: 666
    Pulmonaria. Great for early bees

    Primula vulgaris

    Primula veris in the sunnier bits


    Geranium nodosum ' silverwood'

    Many other geraniums

    Lilium martagon ' alba'


    Hyacinthoides non scripta

    Nectaroscordum - sunnier bits

    Viola tricolour

    Viola odorata

    Vinca minor

    Erythronium dens canis

    Galanthus Nivalis

    Crocus tricolor
  • darren636darren636 Posts: 666

    I forgot astrantia major !
  • darren636darren636 Posts: 666
    Aquilegia fragrans!


    Oxalis acetosella

    Anemone nemerosa

    Anenome sylvestris

    Ajuga reptans



    Luzula nivea
  • ecokidecokid Posts: 138

    wow that's an impressive list Darren and gives me hope that I can still create something exciting with my small space! image

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