Wizards’ Tree

Gardens Month Wildlife Wednesday Species Focus:


One of the common messages we hear when discussing conservation and the environment is that we should be planting more trees. But how does this fit into the wildlife garden?

Trees offer structure and shade to a garden. Many also have flowers and fruit, and their leaves are food for insects too. They can be the perfect host for climbing plants such as honeysuckle, or somewhere to put up a bird box or hang feeders.

If you are considering planting a tree in your garden, native trees and fruit trees will offer most wildlife value. For many people the idea of trees in the garden can be daunting, but there are varieties that will suit even small spaces and it is well worth the effort. Some dwarf fruit trees will even be quite happy in a large container, provided they are given sufficient water and a regular helping of organic plant food.

My personal favourite tree, which is great for the smaller wildlife garden, is the Rowan (Sorbus) or Mountain Ash tree. These native trees also have a number of horticultural cultivars and are easily available from tree nurseries and garden centres across the country. A slender tree, the rowan will not grow to huge dimensions shading out the garden, instead it has a small canopy, which offers seasonal interest throughout the year. White flowers adorn the tree in spring attracting pollinating insects, followed by bunches of bright berries beloved by birds, and the leaves in turn give a last show of autumn colour before they drop and leave a bare structure of twigs and bark for the winter. (Fallen leaves are fantastic addition for compost bins, and shelter lots of invertebrates for foraging hedgehogs, birds and amphibians!)

Myth and Folklore

An old Celtic name for Rowan is ‘fid na ndruad’, which translates as wizards’ tree. The colour red was thought to be strongly magical, so thanks to its red berries the rowan was often planted around homes to ‘protect from evil spirits and witches’, and wood from the tree was sometimes carried in peoples pockets as a protective charm.

Flowers for pollinating insects, berries for birds, and maybe even supernatural protection, what more excuses are needed?

Container-grown trees can be planted into the garden at any time of year as long as they are watered regularly, particularly the first 6 months to one year. If buying bare-root, the season runs from November to March whilst the trees are dormant and can be safely lifted and replanted.

If you really haven’t got a space for a tree of your own, why not investigate community orchard or tree planting schemes in your area, or encourage your local school or hospital to plant some trees in their grounds?

The Woodland Trust are even giving away FREE trees!
Find out more: https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/plant-trees/free-trees/

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