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  • Writer's pictureSarah Kay

The Best Trees for a Wildlife Friendly Garden

This weeks blog is written by one of my content partners, Forbes Tree Care.

A wildlife-friendly garden combines aesthetic beauty with support for local biodiversity through careful tree and plant selection. 

This guide will provide recommendations for selecting trees that are attractive to humans and beneficial for wildlife so your garden can contribute positively to the local ecosystem. 

You can transform your outdoor space into a vibrant haven for birds, insects, and small mammals, enriching biodiversity right in your back garden!

Benefits of Wildlife-Friendly Gardens

Urban and suburban environments often lack natural habitats, making wildlife-friendly gardens really important. 

Planting native trees that offer food and shelter to local wildlife allows homeowners to play a direct role in preserving biodiversity. 

These gardens go beyond just hosting wildlife. They help to:

Embracing this approach to gardening improves both nature's wellbeing and the aesthetic and ecological value of your own garden.

Best Trees for Attracting Wildlife

Creating a wildlife-friendly haven involves carefully selecting trees that provide food, shelter, and breeding grounds, significantly impacting local wildlife populations.

Birch Trees

Silver Birch Seeds for Birds

Prized for their capacity to support wildlife, silver birch trees (Betula pendula) offer vital winter food for numerous bird species through their seeds. This is especially important when other food sources are scarce. Moreover, their white, peeling bark adds a striking visual contrast to any garden.

Holly Trees 

Holly Berries for Birds & Small Mammals

Holly trees benefit wildlife gardens by providing dense foliage for excellent shelter, while their bright red berries serve as a crucial winter food source. Birds like the thrush and small mammals find refuge and sustenance in holly bushes, making them essential for a balanced ecosystem.

Holly trees with hit and miss fencing
Holly tree in E11 Woodland Garden designed by Sarah Kay Garden Design in 2023

Crab Apple Trees 

Crab Apple and espalier apple trees against light grey fencing
Crab Apple tree in E11 Industrial Style Family Garden designed by Sarah Kay Garden Design in 2022

A Food Source for Various Species

In addition to beautifying landscapes with spring blossoms and autumn fruits, crab apple trees (Malus spp.) serve as a versatile food source. Their fruits attract a wide range of birds and mammals, while the trees host various moth caterpillars, supporting predatory bird populations.

Oak Trees 

Supporting a Diverse Ecosystem with Acorns

Oak trees are foundational in any wildlife-friendly setting. Their acorns provide food for a vast array of wildlife, including birds, small mammals, and even deer, while their massive structure offers shelter and nesting sites across generations.

Rowan Trees

Providing Berries for Bird Diets

Rowan trees, with their clusters of bright orange-red berries, are a magnet for many bird species, especially during the migration period. These berries are a vital source of nutrients, helping birds to build essential fat reserves needed for their long journeys.

Alder Trees 

Feeding Insects and Birds with Their Seeds

Alder trees cater to both insects and birds through their seeds, making them a significant winter food source for birds. Their affinity for wet conditions also makes them well-suited for supporting aquatic ecosystems adjacent to garden settings.

Willow Trees

A Haven for Moth Caterpillars and Birds

Willow trees support biodiversity by providing a haven for moth caterpillars, an important food source sustaining many bird species. With their rapid growth and tolerance for moist soils, these trees offer an ideal choice for creating an immediate wildlife-friendly impact in gardens.

Practical Tips for Planting and Maintaining a Wildlife-Friendly Tree

Integrating wildlife-friendly trees requires careful planning and maintenance beyond the initial planting. 

Follow these tips to ensure the trees thrive while continuing to support local wildlife populations:

  1. Right Tree, Right Place: Choosing tree species suited to your local climate and soil conditions promotes healthy growth while reducing maintenance requirements.

  1. Planting: When planting trees, dig a hole twice as wide as the root ball but no deeper to allow roots to spread easily without suffocating. Adding a mulch layer around the tree can help retain moisture and suppress weeds, minimising competition for resources.

  1. Watering: Newly planted trees require deep watering once a week until their roots are fully established, encouraging resilience and self-sufficiency through deep root growth.

  1. Pruning: Regular pruning in the dormant season maintains the tree’s structure by removing unhealthy parts and promoting new growth that benefits wildlife. 

  1. Pest Management: Opt for natural pest control methods to avoid harming the wildlife that your garden aims to support. Encourage natural predators like birds and beneficial insects by providing a diverse range of plants and habitats.

Multi stem Birch trees underplanting with Sedum
Several Birch Trees in E11 Woodland Garden designed by Sarah Kay Garden Design in 2023

Cultivate Your Garden, Enrich Your Ecosystem

Planting trees that attract and support wildlife creates beautiful gardens while significantly contributing to local biodiversity. Remember, each wildlife-friendly tree species like birch, holly, crab apple, and oak, plays a vital role in nurturing and sustaining the local wildlife. 

Take the initiative today: plan your wildlife-friendly garden and enjoy the dual benefits of a thriving natural habitat and an enchanting outdoor space. Ready to start? Consult Sarah Kay Garden Design for expert advice and tailored garden design services that bring your vision to life.

Amelanchier tree, climbing roses, persicaria and Californian Lilac
Amelanchier lamarkii in N12 Dog Friendly garden designed by Sarah Kay Garden Design in 2020

About the Author:

Forbes Tree Care is a family-run team of professional arborists in North London. They specialise in safe tree management to promote sustainability and ecological health. Their team brings expertise and passion to every project, ensuring vibrant, healthy outdoor spaces. 


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