Yorkshire Post - YP Magazine

Beak practice

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Garden berries are a lifeline for many birds during the leaner months, writes David Overend.

Birds should be as fat as little pork pigs this winter because they have the chance to gorge themselves silly on a bumper harvest of berries. Gardeners should be proud to know that their berried treasures are likely to make the difference between life and death for many birds.

So, the healthier the tree or shrub, the more berries they produce and the more lives they save.

This year, rowans (AKA mountain ash and Sorbus) have been weighed down with fruit, and flocks of birds have been going wild at the chance of feasting before the fall.

The same applies, on a smaller scale, to cotoneaste­rs, whose berries are beloved of blackbirds, which, even at this time of year, argue and posture with one another as to who has first feeding rights.

Thankfully, the birds tend to take their time stripping the fruit, so there’s also plenty of time for the gardener to enjoy the magnificen­t ruby red berries, set against a backdrop of dark, evergreen, glossy foliage that can brighten up the gloomiest November day or sparkle in the weak sunshine.

Cotoneaste­r is the gentler sister of another wonder of winter – pyracantha – and whereas the latter is gifted with vicious thorns, the former has none and so is often chosen by those who want the beauty without the bite.

Both plants can be grown as hedges, groundcove­r or against walls and fences; they look equally good as free-standing shrubs.

They are easy to grow in sun or partial shade and in any reasonable soil. They also have the added benefit of being covered by beautiful white flowers in May.

Cotoneaste­rs? Blackbirds are drawn to their tiny berries.

Those rowans? Waxwings, redwings, fieldfares and even flocks of starlings go crazy for their fruits.

Yew, while poisonous to many animals, doesn’t seem to worry birds, and even ivy (when it’s mature and sets fruit) and holly are known to provide a nutritious meal.

Viburnum opulus “Sterile”, seen occasional­ly in gardens and more often as part of a mixed hedge, produces waxy-red, acidic-tasting fruit which is also acceptable to birds when there’s little left on the dining table.

Also consider blackthorn, honeysuckl­e, spindle, wild rose with its attendant hips, hawthorn and elder.

 ?? ?? RICH PICKINGS: The vibrant berries of Viburnum opulus ‘Sterile’.
RICH PICKINGS: The vibrant berries of Viburnum opulus ‘Sterile’.

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