It may be too late to plant a wildflower meadow, but you can think about native plants. And you usually put them in late winter, so you can start planning for where you want to put your new friends.
We start with trees because they are the structural bit of the garden. It is like having a frame to then hang things one. Trees are that frame.
If you have a regular sized suburban garden whatever you do, do not put in a proper tree. Think beech (which isn’t native anyway but naturalised), oak, chestnut, etc. That is a tree. Do not put one in unless you are prepared to keep it in check.
Instead go with more modest plants like hazel, elder, rowan (the elements’ tree!), cherry, hawthorn, birch, etc.
Try and get a tree which bears fruit.
Trees which grow in the shade or in watery type habitats are alder, willow and blackthorn. I mention these because they aren’t too large.
These trees also produce leaf litter which are great for mulching and insects.
You discover something new every year. So this year I discovered that my overripe fruit was being used by insects and when they fell on the ground, worms, etc would eat them. Having a native fruit tree is such a pleasure.
Where to put them?
- As far away from the house as possible. A tree’s roots grow as far as their crowns. So think about what your tree looks like and if it has a huge crown, it will have a massive root system. It makes sense right – except for beeches. I have seen innumerable numbers of beeches upended in storms because of very shallow root system. So be careful when choosing your tree – just stay away from very large trees.
- The smaller shrubs can be used to make an interesting hedge that bears lots of fruit. A fantastic planting to try is: dogrose, hawthrown, blackthorn, hazel and elder. The elder can get out of hand so make sure you keep it control at all times. This hedge will give you a lot of beautiful flowers through the year, smell amazing in the summer and give the birds and insects plenty to be happy about until the dog days of winter.
- Fruit trees like cherries and plums can be the centre pieces of a garden. Use them to ‘anchor’ plantings. you could have two fruit trees (no more) in a regular sized suburban garden, and then have a pond and some smaller plants amongst them. The fruits then can be shared between you and your wildlife.
- Remember trees give shade – so think about the amount of shade you can live with.
Where to get them from?
You can contact local garden centres to ask them about their native tree stock. You can also ask Conservation Volunteers, although I have heard that they tend to order their stock from abroad. But ask around. I got my trees from a garden centre and friends!
Good luck! Never too early to start planning for what trees/shrubs you are planning to put in over the winter!
Tomorrow: Tree Lore!