Written by Ariadna Whittle-Queral, a young volunteer at the Forest of Marston Vale Trust 

As we enter the colder winter months, it’s time to think about how we can make our gardens more wildlife friendly. Whilst many creatures hibernate to survive the cold seasons, others continue to rely on our gardens for food and shelter, making it vital we provide and plant the right resources necessary to help them through the frosty weather. This task can seem daunting at times, but hopefully by the end of this article you will have a much better idea on how to prepare your garden for the coming season. 


Berry bearing shrubs and trees:

One of the most critical aspects of creating a wildlife-friendly garden in winter is providing a reliable source of food. Many birds, including robins, blackbirds, and thrushes, rely on berries as a primary food source during the colder months so consider incorporating them into your garden. We suggest planting any of the following:

  • Cotoneaster
  • Hawthorn 
  • Holly
  • Pyracantha
  • Rowan (Mountain ash)


These are all relatively low maintenance plants that not only will provide sustenance for creatures visiting your garden but will also add a splash of colour. Alternatively, you can always leave out a variety of bird, dog, and cat food for animals to come and feast on if these plants are not a viable option for you. 


Winter-flowering plants:

Whilst we may not associate winter as the best time for flowers, some do thrive in the nipping conditions and supply important nectar for pollinators such as bees and butterflies which do not in fact hibernate. This makes it even more important to provide and assist them as if they do not find a food source, they run the risk of dying from either exhaustion and fatigue, or from the freezing temperatures. Consider adding these winter bloomers to your garden:

  • Winter-flowering heather
  • Hellebores (Lenten rose)
  • Snowdrops
  • Winter aconite
  • Witch hazel


Again, these plants provide both food for pollinators and vibrancy to your garden, and if this is not an option, then we recommend leaving out a spoonful of sugar throughout the day instead. 


Water Features:

If you have the space, a water feature could be a great addition to your garden as it will act as a shelter and congregation point for various wildlife such as birds, amphibians, and insects. This could be:

  • Pond installation
  • Filling an old paddling pool 
  • Fountains of any size
  • Bowl of water


These will all do a brilliant job at providing much needed water. However, to ensure the water does not freeze over entirely, place a tennis ball in the middle overnight and remove in the mornings.

Bug Hotels and Bird Houses:

Not only are these great fun to build, they also provide shelter for insects, bugs, and birds. There are plenty of kits and guides available on the internet to help you design and build one for your own garden or balcony.


Compost piles:

A compost pile will benefit the growth of your garden and will also provide a habitat for hedgehogs, insects, and microorganisms throughout the winter. These critters in turn become a food source for birds and other wildlife, increasing their chances of survival and overall making your garden more wildlife friendly for the winter. Your pile could consist of food waste, fallen seeds from trees and other plants, garden waste such as lawn clippings, paper and cardboard, and much more making this a very easy option.


In conclusion, we thoroughly believe that transforming your garden into a wildlife-friendly oasis during the winter months is a rewarding endeavour that benefits both the creatures that inhabit it and your own enjoyment of the natural world. We hope this has provided you with a few ideas on how to help your local wildlife, so get your gloves and gardening tools ready, and start building your winter wildlife wonderland.

Tell us about your winter wonderland garden and tag us on social media