Consider Irish wildlife as you choose what to plant
Spring is fast approaching and now is the time to think about new planting. Following the record low temperatures we experienced during the winter, most gardens have lost large numbers of tender and semi-hardy shrubs and plants.
Many of our nicest shrubs and climbers come from milder climates and are not fully winter hardy, and the extreme cold we experienced has sorted out the weaklings. No one knows for sure if these cold winters are part of a trend similar to the mini ice age that occurred in the mid-1800s or just a chance event that may not recur for another 20 or 30 years.
But whatever has been lost should be replaced and, when doing so, it is worth planting with wildlife in mind and choosing species that are not only attractive to look at but also provide food and shelter for birds and insects.
The following is a simple short list of a few useful species I grow around my farm and in my garden. They are all hardy, easy to establish and, as well as looking good, are much appreciated by the birds and bees.
The common Alder is quick growing, ideal for damp ground and has attractive yellow catkins in March. Its seeds provide valuable food for small finches.
Rowan or mountain ash has lovely white flowers in May, as does the common whitebeam. Both produce red berries in September, which provide food for redwings, blackbirds, thrushes and fieldfares. Birch is a very attractive tree, especially the silver variety with its peeling white bark. It produces seeds early in the year which are enjoyed by finches. Willow thrives in damp conditions and can grow at an astonishing rate. The stems are very useful for craft work and also attract large numbers of insects which provide food for willow warblers, chiffchaffs and tits.
Crab apples bring a splash of blossom to hedgerows and gardens during April and May. They also hold their fruits long into the winter when they are most needed, especially by thrushes and blackbirds.