Encouraging Birds & Wildlife Into Your Garden

Whether your garden is large or small, backs onto open land or is in the middle of a town, you can encourage a surprisingly large variety of wildlife, especially birds and butterflies, into your own private ‘nature reserve’. By having the right plants in your garden, you will offer food and protection for the survival of wildlife and be entertained on a regular basis throughout the year.

Many shrubs, climbers, trees, garden and ‘wild’ plants provide food, directly or indirectly, through berries, seeds or the insects they attract.

Many of the plants mentioned below can be viewed on our Plant Finder.


As a general rule, night-flying moths are attracted to white flowers, butterflies to blues and pinks, and hoverflies to yellows.  


These will attract members of the Thrush family, Starlings and, in some winters, Waxwing and even Warblers.
  • Aronia arbutifolia (Red Chokeberry): bright red fruits.
  • Berberis: most have berries loved by Blackbirds.
  • Callicarpa ‘Profusion’: bright violet coloured berries.
  • Cornus (Dogwood): blue tinted white berries (not C. mas).
  • Cotoneaster: prolific red, orange or yellow berries.
  • Euonymus europaeus (Spindleberry): large bright red fruits which open to emit orange-red berries.
  • Ilex (Holly): red, orange or yellow berries.
  • Mahonia: decorative black berries.
  • Rosa rugosa: large hips, greenfinches pick out the seeds.
  • Sambucus (Elder): red or black berries.
  • Viburnum opulus (Guelder Rose): translucent berries.
  • Viscum album (Mistletoe): familiar white globular berries of this parasite that grows in trees, especially apple.


  • Chaenomeles (Flowering Quince/Cydonia): autumn Quinces (ideal for humans to make jams!).
  • Hedera (Ivy): shiny black berries.
  • Lonicera (Honeysuckle): red or black berries attract  Thrushes plus Bullfinches and Marsh and Willow Tits. 
  • Pyracantha (Firethorn): red, orange or yellow berries. 


  • Crataegus monyga (Hawthorn): red berries.
  • Malus (Crab Apple): red fruited varieties are best for birds.
  • Prunus (Cherries): fruits quickly picked off.
  • Sorbus aucuparia (Mountain Ash/Rowan): red, orange or pink/white berries. Darker fruits are more attractive to birds.   
  • Taxus (Yew): sparse red berries attract a wide range of birds. Attractive also to Badgers. 


  • Crocus: yellow and orange flowers contain yellow carotene to brighten Sparrows’ plumage during breeding season.
  • Echinops Ritro (Globe Thistle): Seedheads are eaten by Goldfinches and flowerheads attract insects.
  • Helianthus (Sunflower): seedheads are eaten by  Greenfinches. The nectar attracts a wide range of insects.
  • Lavandula (Lavender): seeds are attractive to Goldfinches.
  • Primula (Polyanthus/Primrose): yellow and orange flowers are attractive to Sparrows.


  • You can provide a haven by recreating a wild meadow to attract insects which, in turn, attract birds and other wildlife. We sell nursery grown ‘wild’ plants throughout the year. 
    • Betony
    • Bird’s Foot Trefoil
    • Common Poppy – seeds are favourite food of Finches.
    • Field Scabious     
    • Giant Hogweed – white flowers fed on by Flycatchers and Warblers.
    • Greater Knapweed
    • Meadow Cranesbill
    • Musk Mallow  
    • Ox Eye Daisy   
    • Oxlip    
    • Primrose
    • Rough Hawkbit  
    • Self Heal 
    • Teasel – seedheads are a favourite food of Goldfinches.  
    • Wild Strawberry


  • This is one of the principal sources of food for birds who enjoy feeding on insects – ants eaten by Green Woodpeckers; leatherjackets by Starlings; snails by Songthrushes; slugs by toads and worms by Blackbirds, Robins and Thrushes. A bowling-green standard lawn is of little benefit to wildlife, but if you allow a section to remain uncut long enough for plants to flower you will provide a better feeding area for birds, bees and other insects. Adding other flowering plants will increase the wildlife value of your lawn.  
    For short turf, apart from the usual lawn ‘weeds’, attractive additions are:
    • Lotus corniculatus (bird’s foot trefoil)
    • Thymus polytrichus (wild thyme)
    • Prunella vulgaris (self heal)
    • Viola spp. (Violets)


  • By surrounding your garden with thick and often prickly hedging and dotting suitable shrubs around, you can provide safe nesting havens that are protected from marauding cats and even the unwelcome attention of unfriendly human beings.
    • Conifers, especially Chamaecyparis, Taxus (Yew) and Thuya plicata.
    • Crataegus   
    • Eleagnus    
    • Hedera (Ivy) up a tree.
    • Ligustrum (Privet) especially for Blackbirds.
    • Lonicera (Honeysuckle)      
    • Pittosporum
    • Salix caprea (Weeping Kilmarnock Willow)
    • Viburnum


The Nectar from the blossom of many Shrubs, Climbers, Trees, Garden and Wild Plants and herbs all attract a wide variety of Butterflies such as Brimstones, Commas, Peacocks, Red Admiral, Tortoiseshell and more.



  • Buddleia davidii: the most popular shrub for Butterflies with heavily scented flower panicles.
  • Ceanothus burkwoodii
  • Chaenomeles
  • Hebe: notably the purple flowers.
  • Lavandula: especially the traditional mauve spikes.
  • Ligustrum: frothy white flowers.
  • Potentilla fruiticosa: strawberry-like flowers all summer long.
  • Rhamnus frangula: small white clumpy flowers.
  • Spiraea (Bumalda varieties only)
  • Syringa (Lilac): usually heavily scented pyramidal blossoms.


  • Hedera (Ivy): in addition to attracting Red Admirals and small Tortoiseshells, the nectar attracts Beetles and Hoverflies late in the season.
  • Lonicera (Honeysuckle)


  • Prunus avium (Wild Cherry): single white flowers.


  • Achillea
  • Arabis
  • Aster (Michaelmas Daisy)
  • Centranthus (Velerian)
  • Cheiranthus (Wallflower)
  • Dianthus (Pinks & Sweet William)
  • Echinops ritro (Globe Thistle)
  • Erigeron
  • Eryngium maritinium (Sea Holly)
  • Fritillaria meleagris (Snakes Head Fritillary)
  • Gentian verna (Spring Gentian)
  • Helenium
  • Heliotrope
  • Hesperis (Sweet Rocket)
  • Lunaria biennis (Honesty)
  • Lythrium salicaria (Purple Loosestrife)
  • Matthiola bicornis (Night Scented Stock): also Moths.
  • Muscari (Grape Hyacinth)
  • Mysotis (Forget Me Not)
  • Nepeta (Cat Mint)
  • Nicotiana (Tobacco): also Moths.
  • Primula (Polyanthus/Primrose)
  • Scabiosa (Scabious)
  • Sedum spectabile (Ice Plant)
  • Solidago (Golden Rod)


  • Betony
  • Bird’s Foot Trefoil
  • Bluebell
  • Field Scabious
  • Garlic Mustard (Hedge Garlic): additionally attracts the Orange Tipped Butterfly.
  • Great Stotchwort
  • Harebell
  • Hedge Woundwart
  • Hemp Agrimony
  • Knapweed
  • Lady’s Bedstraw
  • Lady’s Smock
  • Lesser Celandine
  • Nettles ‘Stinging Nettles’: the food plant of many varieties of Caterpillars – enclose to stop spreading.
  • Ox Eye Daisy
  • Ragged Robin: also attracts Common Blue and Whites
  • Violet (Common Dog)


  • Chives         
  • Comfrey
  • Origanum vulgare (Oregano/Marjoram)
  • Mentha (Mint)         
  • Rosemarinus (Rosemary)
  • Thymus (Thyme)


A water feature not only enhances any garden but also provides a home for frogs, toads, newts and water snails. 
Many birds enjoy splashing in shallow bird baths. They’ll bring a wide range of bird varieties into your garden especially in warm weather. A garden pond will aid the establishment of frogs and toads – a natural slug deterrent! – and will encourage water insects such as dragonflies and water boatmen. Ensure that your pond has shallow and deep areas to provide different habitats.


Squirrel proof wire clad feeders are the best type. Fill with peanuts to attract Greenfinches, Nuthatches, Sparrows and Tits during the colder winter months, when natural food becomes scarce. Change to kibbled peanuts or a seed mix in the early spring to avoid the danger of these being fed by older birds to their young. Fat-filled coconut shells attract Tits. Even stale bread, soaked in water, will bring many hungry birds down onto your lawn including Starlings – clear leftovers at the end of the day to avoid attracting vermin. Different types of table are available for birds of different sizes. Tables come on stands, to hang from trees, fix to fences or windows.


These are best situated by ‘cover’ shrubs as listed and positioned to face north and east. If facing south they become too hot, or west they get the full force of prevailing winds and rain. Buy open fronted nesting boxes for Flycatchers and Robins, and ones with a suitable size hole for Nuthatches, Sparrows and Tits.


As well as being a useful way of providing free fertiliser for your garden, compost heaps provide temporary homes for worms, harmless grass snakes and other insects. They’ll also attract an abundance of insects, worms, mites and other small creatures, providing a valuable food source for birds and animals as well as assisting the composting process.  
A pile of dead wood will provide over-wintering sites for all sorts of small creatures. Leave some dead wood around to attract harmless ants and termites which attract insect-eating birds such as Dunnocks, Robins and Wrens.   


Once a collection of wildlife is established, give further help by providing additional nesting boxes for birds and providing additional winter foods for birds and animals. The joy of having your own colony of butterflies, frogs and even hedgehogs adds an additional element of attraction whilst supporting wildlife, whose habitat we are destroying. 

Chemical pesticides and weedkillers are natural enemies, so where possible use natural treatments. 

For more information, please visit one of our Garden Centres and speak to a member of our friendly & knowledgeable plant team.


Mixed or one species hedges using Crataegus (Thor), Corylus (Hazel), Ilex (Holly), or Fagus (Beech) provide nectar from their flowers, followed by fruit, nuts etc. They also provide protected nesting environment for birds.  
To create the ideal wildlife hedge, plant a mixture of the following; Crataegus monogyna, (Hawthorn), Acer campestre (Field maple), Prunus spinosa (Blackthorn), Fagus sylvatica (Beech), Carpinus betulus (Hornbeam). These can be planted with rambling plants such as Rosa canina (wild rose), Rubus fruticosa (Bramble), and Lonicera periclymenum (Honeysuckle).