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If you want to create a natural garden, you should also make it as pleasant as possible for the local animals. So that the birds that stayed in the garden in autumn and winter can also find enough food, it is a good idea to cultivate native shrubs with autumn and winter berries as forage plants. These are suitable as a hedge but also as a solitaire.

bushes with thorns

Native shrubs, which have thorns in addition to autumnal berries, are not only good forage plants for native birds, but also offer reliable nesting protection. The trees are also suitable as solitaires, but above all as hedges. Here they offer several bird families enough space to breed. In addition, many insects fly to the flowers in spring and summer, which can also serve as good food for the birds.

Barberry (Berberis vulgaris)

  • common sour thorn
  • also vinegar berry
  • evergreen
  • suitable as a hedge plant
  • small yellow flowers
  • ovate, red or purple to black berries
  • until deep winter on the bush
  • bear thorns
  • hardy
Barberry in the garden

Tip: The berries of the barberry are not only edible for birds, we humans can also enjoy the berries of the sour thorn, usually processed into juice or jelly. The berries are often sold dried at markets.

Common juniper (Juniperus communis)

  • conifers
  • no thorns, but pointed
  • up to eight meters high
  • Flowers from April to June in cones
  • black fruits are fleshy cones
  • only mature in the second or third year
  • serve as food for birds
  • non-toxic
  • can live up to 600 years
  • evergreen needles
Juniper bush with juniper berries

Tip: Juniper berries are known to be dried in the kitchen. The fruits of the juniper are also used to make gin.

Buckthorn (Rhamnus cathartica)

  • large shrub
  • up to eight meters high and six meters wide
  • has thorns
  • yellow-green flowers
  • Flowering period from May to June
  • black fruits in autumn
  • Fruits are poisonous
  • hardy
  • Fall foliage color
Buckthorn, Rhamnus catharticus

Notice: The thorns sit on the tips of the short shoots and form a cross with the branches, from which the plant got its name. This also offers the native birds good protection when nesting.

Holly (Ilex)

  • also called winter berries
  • spiked leaves
  • evergreen
  • up to 25 meters high
  • can be cut into a ball
  • good for nesting birds
  • red berries in winter
  • are absolutely frost hardy
  • good fodder plants in winter

Tip: You probably know the holly branches with the red berries from the Christmas decorations. This custom of Christmas decoration originally comes from England and America, where it has a long tradition.

Hawthorn (Crateagus monogyna)

  • as a tree or shrub
  • up to seven meters high
  • valuable nectar donor
  • also popular as a medicinal plant
  • has spikes
  • white flowers from May to June
  • smell unpleasant
  • September brick red berries
  • can be enjoyed cooked
  • autumn coloring

Tip: If you plant the shrubs as a hedge and privacy screen, then the birds can not only find their food here in autumn and winter, but also breed directly in spring.

trees without thorns

However, there are also some bushes that can serve as fodder plants because they also bear fruit that the birds like to eat, but have no thorns. Here, too, the birds can build their nests, but due to the lack of thorns they are less well protected, for example from cats that are outside, which can get to the nests more easily here. These are still good forage plants.

Cherry laurel (Prunus laurocerasus)

  • also called laurel cherry
  • not a laurel, but related to cherries and plums
  • as a solitaire or hedge
  • Growth height up to four meters
  • white flowers from May to June
  • black fruits from July/August
  • evergreen
  • hardy
  • Toxic in kernels, seeds and leaves
  • The pulp itself is not or only moderately toxic

Notice: It is not as poisonous as the cherry laurel is often described. The fruits, which small children in particular like to put in their mouths, are not as poisonous as the seeds or leaves. The poison emergency center also points out that no symptoms of poisoning occur if no more than three fruits are eaten. However, care should be taken when cultivating if there are small children in the household.

Cornelian cherry (Cornus mas)

  • shrub or tree
  • not related to the cherries
  • up to eight meters high and wide
  • Bushes multi-stemmed
  • yellow flowers
  • Flowering time March to April
  • pleasantly lightly scented
  • red, edible drupe
  • ready to harvest from August to October
  • Fall foliage color
Cornelian cherry, Cornus mas

Tip: Due to its early flowering, which often begins as early as February, the cornel is not only a suitable forage plant for local birds, it is also an eye-catcher in the otherwise drab conservatory.

Privet (Ligustrum vulgare)

  • always cultivated as a shrub
  • up to four meters high
  • strongly scented white flowers
  • Flowering from June to July
  • black berries in August and September
  • slightly toxic
  • wintergreen
  • leaf shedding in spring
  • violet autumn colour

Tip: The native privet is one of the best woody plants for birds. Because it is easy to care for and offers a lot of protection and food for birds and insects of all kinds cultivated as a hedge. In addition, it is also a colorful eye-catcher in dreary gardens in autumn and winter.

Euonymus europaeus

  • also known as spindle bush
  • large shrub
  • grows up to six meters high
  • Width up to four meters
  • grows multi-stemmed
  • Flowering from May to June
  • in cymes
  • red fruits from July and August
  • bright crimson foliage in autumn
  • poisonous in all parts
  • well suited as a solitaire in a corner

Notice: For us humans, the fruits of the spindle tree are highly poisonous and should therefore not be eaten under any circumstances. Caution should also be exercised with small children and pets in the household. Birds, on the other hand, like to feed on the fruit. Above all, tits and robins should be mentioned here.

Blackthorn (Prunus spinosa)

  • also known as sloe
  • Fruits absolutely frost hardy
  • up to five meters high
  • Width even up to six meters
  • white flowers from March to April
  • lightly scented
  • Fruits blue, violet or black
  • Fall foliage color
  • hardy
  • absolutely non-toxic

Tip: The fruits of the sloe, which are also edible for us humans, should only be harvested after the first frost, when they get their very special aroma.

Black elder (Sambucus nigra)

  • Can be cultivated as trees or shrubs
  • up to seven meters high
  • up to five meters wide
  • white umbels of flowers
  • from May to July
  • slightly pleasantly scented
  • black and purple drupes
  • from August to autumn
  • absolutely non-toxic in all parts
  • hardy

Tip: The fruits of the black elder are not only suitable for native birds as autumn and winter food. Elderberries are also considered very healthy for us humans and are often processed into jelly or juice. The elderflowers can also be used in the kitchen. Therefore, the bushes can also be found in many cottage gardens.

Rowan (Sorbus aucuparia)

  • also known as mountain ash
  • bright red-orange berries in autumn
  • next to colorful autumn leaves
  • usable depending on the variety
  • depending on the location up to twelve meters high
  • up to six meters wide
  • white flowers in May and June
  • non-toxic in all parts
  • hardy
  • undemanding and easy to care for

Notice: Perhaps you also remember the warning from your parents or grandparents not to pick rowan berries as they are poisonous. However, this is not true, because the berries of the mountain ash are not poisonous and the sweet varieties can be eaten raw. All others are inedible due to the taste.

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