Why plant native trees in the garden

Thoughts and musings

Why plant native trees in the garden

Stuart | October 20, 2013 | 0 Comments

Why native trees?

‘Native’ means that these trees are ‘at home’ in Britain: they’ve grown here for thousands of years! So if you live in the UK, plant these trees because they help native insects and other animals to survive.

10 trees you should plant in your garden

Alder, Alnus glutinosa

  • A quick-growing, nitrogen-fixing, insect-harbouring, bird-loving son of a gun

Planting an alder is a great way to invite birds and insects to live in your garden. These trees grow fast and love damp soil. In the winter, male catkins and female cones dangle from the branches. Its timber was used
as a lure for woodworm, which would prefer to eat away at a block of alder wood placed in a wooden cupboard than the cupboard itself.

Ash, Fraxinus excelsior

  • A grand tree shrouded in mystery and folklore

For the Vikings, their ‘world tree’ was an ash: Yggdrasil united heaven, hell and earth. Many pagans saw the ash as a healing tree, and used it in ceremonies and treatments. The wood is very springy and can withstand sudden shocks, so is great for snooker cues and hockey sticks.

English oak, Quercus robur

  • Famous for having strong timber, being a home for insects, and for living to a ripe old age

Oaks grow all over Britain, but why not grow one of these huge, solid beauties in your garden? They’re the best at attracting insects (who’ll help to pollinate other plants in your garden) and can live for over 500 years.

Hawthorn, Crataegus monogyna

  • Its white flowers are a welcome sign of spring after a long winter

The hawthorn is also known as the May tree, and you’ve probably seen loads of its beautiful white flowers blooming in the month of May. Used in spring ceremonies, this tree also has more practical uses and its berries are thought to benefit the heart and to lower blood pressure.

Hazel, Corylus avellana

  • Nuts about nuts? Plant one of these beauties!

If you grow a hazel, you can look forward to harvesting the tasty nuts and perhaps sharing them with garden friends such as squirrels and dormice. The catkins that grow on hazels also look pretty cool – they’re known as ‘lamb’s tails’.

Holly, Ilex aquifolium

  • A festive treat to cheer up your winter

You’ll love harvesting holly from your own garden at Christmas, and the birds will love you for providing shelter and a plentiful source of food in the berries. There’s nothing like seeing the red berries and the shiny, spiky leaves of holly to brighten a dark, cold winter’s day.

Rowan, Sorbus aucuparia

  • A tough tree that dares to grow where others cannot

This used to be planted outside houses to ward off witches, but you might like to plant one simply because it’s a lovely tree with bright red berries! It can even survive on high and exposed ground.

Silver birch, Betula pendula

  • This quicksilver tree grows fast and has amazing shiny bark

If you want to make a quick impression on your garden, try this fast-growing pioneer species with its slightly shiny silvery-white trunk. Its timber is used to smoke haddocks, among other things, and its trunk can be tapped for sap that can be made into wine.

Small-leaved lime, Tilia cordata

  • No, not that type of lime!

Although you won’t get green lime fruits from this tree, it is one of our most beautiful native species. You can eat the leaves in salads, and brew a pleasant, uplifting tea from the flowers.


Willow, Salix sp.

  • Fast-growing and so many to choose from – weeping, goat, twisted, even cricket bat!

These graceful trees survive in the dampest of places, so will suit a water-logged or riverside garden. They also have their fair share of folklore – the words ‘witch’ and ‘wicked’ come from the same word as ‘willow’.