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Recommendations for North-facing wildlife planting please

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Preamble time - shift to the second paragraph if this gets boring, that's where the meat and drink is: I'm in the process (ie if I don't slip a disc it'll be done by dark) of removing my back hedge. Fundamentally it was big, fugly, and blocked the light to next door's kitchen window, and I didn't like it anyway. However, it provided a lot of cover for the neighbourhood sparrows and other birds, and I feel quite guilty about losing that. It's being replaced with a 6ft panel fence (which should hardly obstruct the window) and its removal has left me with a bed that will be 4-5 feet deep at the bottom of the garden that I can play with. Not all will be garden as the shedette (small plastic pot store) will go in one corner, with a space behind full of logs for invertebrates and the like, and hopefully hedgehogs if any survive the roads, and there will be a bit of pottering area hidden behind the greenhouse as well.

However I'd like to plant the rest with stuff that will look good while providing cover for the birds. The one solid plan is a Maiden's Blush rose in the middle because it is pretty, smells wonderful, and is almost obscene in French. So... what can you recommend will provide good wildlife cover, including winter (this will mean at least one evergreen shrub/bush), and thrive facing North? We are suburban and the bed will be right under next door's wall, so relatively sheltered from the worst of frosts, and on a mid-to heavy clay-loam soil. I'm not too worried about fertility where the Leylandii have been as I have access to well-rotted horse manure, plus a compost dalek that produces at a terrifying rate, so I can dig in plenty of sh1t.

See photo with the hedge in the background for details of the situation - next door is pretty much due South of us.

Many thanks,


(probably should have thought of this first... but the allotment is too wet to dig, so I started on the hedge while I was thinking of it!)

We have a cotoneaster in a nasty corner, it needs watching for too much spread sideways. but it is alive with bees for months on end, and because it hugs the ground it shelters wrens and dunnocks, then the blackbirds love the berries as well, it's a real multi-purpose plant.

Pyracatha would be good for training over the fence.  It will have blossom and nectar before your rose and berries afterwards so provides food and shelter for many over a long period. and the orange version Cadange are both resistant to fireblight.

Buddleias provide nectar for a wide range of insects and now come in many colours.  An evergreen mahonia would provide structure and early flowers then berries later on as would berberis darwinii.   I would plant hellebores, bergenias and snowdrops for early nectar seekers and some of the creamier shades of daff for a bit later on as their colour will show better than yellow that early in a northerly aspect.  Foxgloves and aquilegias for later still.  Hydrangea paniculata is good for pollinators and there are several hardy geraniums which will provide ground cover as well as leaf forms, height and flower colours to suit your scheme.

You could use variegated ivy for ground or fence cover and, when mature, it will provide nectar and fruits for pollinators and birds as well as shelter.

Obelixx, C'est magnifique! Small's suggestion is near-perfect too (it would only have been better if I'd thought of it myself first...) as we have a cotoneaster hedge at the front, shaded by our house, and lots of seedlings that I normally have to get rid of, so the soil is right.

Obelixx - I'm drooling at the thought already. There's so much in that list that I already love. We've already got foxgloves and aquilegias (at least in part because they need to really be in the wrong place for me to remove them) and after last year when I left the local cranesbills in to brighten the place up I think we may be hacking our way through impenetrable forests of bubblegum-pink geraniums!

I'd never heard of that particular hydrangea, but it looks rather lovely, and we were admiring other people's pyracantha only this morning. I even have a Mahonia (probably x media "Charity" as it is so strongly scented it's like walking into a wall), though as it's a year-old single leaf cutting it's a bit tiddly at the moment - it's about a foot across and about 4 inches high!

Presumably the variegated ivy will be less vvigorous than its green cousin and easier to keep in check?

Thank you both, I may not have space for any more ideas, but keep them coming!


You may be amused to hear that I posted on our neighbourhood Nextdoor forum as well (if it grows locally, must suit the soil), and someone has somewhat ardently (three replies!) suggested Vinca minor. I may choose tactfully not to mention that next door have finally got rid of the periwinkle that spread from the previous owner after four years of spraying with hideous concoctions... Nice in its place, but that place is at least two doors down!
(I've a nasty feeling the bulbs I unearthed are muscari... equally bad!)



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