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Homeless birds or shaded garden?

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Question from Julianne


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Like the whole area, my city garden is surrounded by large mature deciduous trees. The previous owner planted 4 ugly conifers on the southern boundary. When in leaf, the other large trees on the southern edge combine with the conifers to cast 3/4's of this sunny garden into shade for most of the day.

I don't want to replace the conifers like for like with trees, as I need to use this area to allow the sunshine to spread into the garden. However the early spring photo illustrates that I need some tall evergreen interest with a light canopy, which offers some disguise from November to April. One tall and slim something would be good. Canopy space is tight; I already have an Ash and Lime next to the conifers and a Cherry Blossom currently sandwiched in the Conifers. An ideal height of a maximum of 1m taller than the conifers would disguise a security camera behind the boundary.

What would be suitable?

Also, any small bird in the area lives in the conifers, as they provide the only evergreen nesting place. I understand that I need to wait until September, after the birds have finished nesting to remove the conifers.

What can I plant in the new borders/boundaries that the birds would like to live in and would provide them with a new home quickly, if I remove the conifers this year?

My garden has clay soil, which is cracked or waterlogged, depending on the weather. Although this boundary is better due to the leaf fall. The lime tree next to the conifers has substantial surface roots.

Looking forward to some interesting suggestions.

Many thanks

Homeless birds or shaded garden?

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  • Views: 887
  • Replies: 2
  • Posted: Sat. 28th March 2009 20:17

Your questions for the panel

Reply from Nicola

Dear Julianne, Many thanks for your questions for the panel. They will respond to you on the 8th April. Kind regards Nicola

  • Posted: Sat. 28th March 2009 22:51

Homeless birds or shaded garden?

Reply from David Sewell

Hi Julianne,
Good post! This has got the old grey matter whirring a bit!
Right, tall and thin. Well you could try a bamboo - something like Phylostachys nigra or 'Aurea' would certainly give you the height but might be a bit too wide. An alternative might be the grass Miscanthus sacchariflorus (please note spelling might be wrong - there's no time to look these things up!) which grows tall and strong to about 12 feet. It dies back in the winter but the beauty of it is that it retains its canes and flower heads all winter as well so you still get the height and I think the winter stems are very attractive.
Tall, thin and evergreen might include some of the smaller fastigiate conifers but I'm wary of suggesting anything because you've either got to spend a fortune buying mature specimens or wait decades for them to reach full height! However if you're prepared to trim them each year then you have a wide variety of medium-sized fastigiate ones to choose from.
Something a little more exotic might be the hardy palm Trachycarpos fortunei (again don't take my spelling as gospel!) which can be bought as a tall mature specimen for a reasonably sensible price. Another thing that springs to mind is Taxus fastigiate which is very controllable for a decade or so but may need topping and tying in after that. However - it is a fantastic roosting site for the birds, being very tight.
Evergreen shrubs that will cope with your soil and would provide cover for the birds include Aucubas, Berberis, Choisya, Cotoneaster, Mahonias, Pyracanthas. A bit mainstream I'm afraid, but heavy clay is a very testing environment and these species are tried and tested.
Hope that helps!
All best,
David Sewell NCH, NDH

  • Posted: Wed. 8th April 2009 18:33