Winter Garden tips - A time to sit and watch

PUBLISHED: 17:07 03 February 2010 | UPDATED: 16:39 20 February 2013



Gardening expert Sue Beesley picks her way through the frozen wastes <br/>PHOTOGRAPHY BY SUE BEESLEY

Well, what a winter! Six inches of snow or more, temperatures down to minus 17C and the ground frozen stiff for weeks. I hardly stepped into the garden during January, except to scrape ice and snow off the paths. Gardening has been out of the question. So Im really hoping that we get a mild spell in February so that I can catch up with a few jobs.

But the cold weather has made me sit still and watch the wildlife in the garden and Ive realised how important our garden plants can be for native birds in harsh weather. The lovely Sorbus Joseph Rock with bright orange berries that I mentioned in Decembers article was set upon by a flock of fieldfares, redwings and song thrushes in January. In one frozen week, the tree fed about 15 birds every day, until they had stripped it bare. It was wonderful to watch and its made me want to plant more bird food plants this spring.

Rowans (sorbus) and crab apples are perfect small trees for feeding birds, but if you are tight for space, there are plenty of shrubs and climbers which are wonderful sources of bird food.

The juneberry, amelanchier lamarkii, is a lovely shrub with gorgeous young bronze leaves, white flowers in spring and a great crop of berries for birds.

All of the spiny Berberis family are great berry producers, as well as making superb intruder-proof hedges. I really like Harlequin, with pretty mottled leaves and bright red berries in autumn. Best of all is mature ivy, producing masses of nutritious black berries which thrushes and blackbirds love.

Spring is the perfect time to plant new shrubs, but Ill have to wait for the ground to defrost first! In the meantime its cheering to see the first snowdrops in flower and to have the whole gardening year ahead to look forward to.

Sue Beesley was runner-up in the BBCs Gardener of the Decade and is the owner of Lodge Lane nursery and Bluebell Cottage Gardens in Dutton, Cheshire. Check out her website

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