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Shrubs for birds' nests/cover

Hi everyone,

I am currently trying to plan which plants to buy for our garden - it is being dug over in a couple of weeks and we'll be starting from scratch with a blank canvas.

We're going to have a pond, rockery and wildflower area, with plenty of honeysuckle, clematis and jasmine climbers dotted around the garden too. I would like to provide at least one shrub in this area that's good cover for the birds. Unfortunately we haven't got quite enough room to incorporate my initial plan to have a native hedge as screening - I was hoping to use hawthorn and blackthorn for that.

I am going to plant a couple of viburnums as I know these provide berries for the birds, but would like recommendations for a good cover shrub, that birds could potentially use to nest in as well. We have got a dog so ideally something that isn't razor sharp. My preference for all of the shrubs I'm including is that they flower (for the bees/butterflies) and provide berries for the birds too. We don't really have room for a tree. The pond area is South facing, and the opposite side where we are also thinking of having shrubs is North facing - so recommendations for both sites would be great.

Thanks for any advice,

Lucid image



  • GardenmaidenGardenmaiden Posts: 1,126

    Hawthorn, Eliagnus are in my garden and what they zoom to.

  • pansyfacepansyface PEAK DISTRICT DerbyshirePosts: 21,239

    Very out of fashion these days - but not with the little birds - flowering currant. It is as tough as old boots and is a spring flowering plant. It does produce berries if it isn't pruned hard. We have an old one near the house which is almost constantly vibrating with all the activity going on within it. First port of call for sparrows, dunnocks, robins and different thpes of tits whenever the kestrel swoops in.

    Apophthegm -  a big word for a small thought.
  • DorcasDorcas Posts: 159

    Although you might not have room for a hedge as such you could put just 2 copper beech plants in and grow them together as a shrub.  We did this and the birds love it.  We've even had a robin and a wren nest in it. 

  • DovefromaboveDovefromabove Central Norfolk UKPosts: 82,259

    Can you give us an idea of how much room you have got for this shrub please? 

    Do you have room for agood sized holly in the north-facing area - wonderful flowers for insects and berries for birds, as well as providing good shelter for roosting in winter, and a favourite nest site for blackbirds.

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

  • FairygirlFairygirl west central ScotlandPosts: 49,135

    We had a group of those little weeping willows in  a previous garden (Kilmarnock willow) and the sparrows adored them. They swooped in and out of them umpteen times a day back and forth to the pond. They stay compact - on a dwarf rootstock - and don't get enormous in width either. 

    Almost any evergreen  shrub would suffice though - small birds in particular like any kind of dense cover for safety. Pittosporum is very nice and there are lots of varieties of them.  Although you say you don't have room for a tree, Amelanchier lamarkii is a shrub (which can be grown as a tree too) which has flowers in spring for insects and berries later with lovely autumn colour.    image

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

  • DovefromaboveDovefromabove Central Norfolk UKPosts: 82,259
    jo47 wrote (see)

    Regarding holly Dove - what's needed for berries .......... is it self fertile? image

    Two varieties are self fertile  ... Ilex aquifolium 'J.C. van Tol' (a spineless green holly) and 'Pyramidalis' (a green holly with sparsely prickled leaves)


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

  • This particular subject matter is something I've huge interest in and would be happy to further advise on.   I've masses of hedging and planting and for precisely the same reason.   It really depends where in the country you're based and what sort of birds you already have around you and what you're hoping to attract.   

    There's also the practicalities like how big an area you have to fill and whether you're bothered about how much trimming and maintenance it needs or whether there's loads of thorns and spikes on it.    You'd not want that in an area where you're constantly having to walk past.

    Generally though hawthorn is great.  So is privet.   Blackthorn.  Dogwood.  Catoneaster.  Escalonia.  Berberis.  Mahonia.  Holly.   I even grow blackcurrants and sunflowers just for bird food. 

    Basically though you need to try to provide cover and fodder for as long as possible during the year.    That means not only things like berries though. You want also to consider flowers that attract insects for the insect feeders.  

    Be aware that I could bore you to death with my bird photos all just taken in the garden!   We have huge variety and a lot of things that are not common.






  • ButtercupdaysButtercupdays Posts: 4,293

    Apparently I grow blackcurrants just for bird food tooimage

  • B3B3 South East LondonPosts: 24,076
    Do you have a lot of cats in your area? If so, you need to bear this in mind when choosing what to plant . You will definitely need something dense and spikey.

    At our old house, we had to discourage blackbirds from nesting in low shrubbery as the cats would lie in wait there
    In London. Keen but lazy.
  • pansyfacepansyface PEAK DISTRICT DerbyshirePosts: 21,239

    My birds grow their own blackcurrants.image

    Apophthegm -  a big word for a small thought.
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