4 Non-Native Trees & Shrubs Brilliant for Birds
Add interest to your garden and feed native birds too
While it’s true that native plants are generally best for native wildlife, there are some non-native plants that are also great for the locals. And while an all native garden can look fabulous with NZ’s many diverse plant forms to work with, if you’re an avid plants-person (like me) it can be a hard task to be that disciplined. And really, diversity is a good thing, with plants from other countries often filling a gap with much needed food at lean times of the year when few natives are flowering. So, here are a few of the best.
Tagasaste or Tree Lucerne
This is a tree that we can’t recommend highly enough for its value to birds & bees, and in our books it’s an honorary native. We’ve planted it extensively at Earthlore where it provides a rich source of nectar in late winter when there is little else flowering, while at the same time it acts as a nurse tree for native plants coming up underneath it. Tui, bellbird and bees zero in on the flowers, while kereru happily munch on the leaves. We love this tree so much, we propagate and sell it.
Australia has many native nectar drinking birds, just like NZ does, so many Aussie native plants, like grevilleas, are great for NZ birds too.
There are about 250 different varieties of grevillea ranging from fully hardy to frost tender, with flowers of yellow, orange, pink, red and green, many with combinations of these colours in one flower. They have an unusual spidery shaped flower, and birds just love them.
Another great Aussie native, once very common in gardens, but not so much in recent years. Their distinctive red flowers shaped just like a bottlebrush are very attractive to nectar feeding birds. They will grow into a large shrub, growing in quite poor soil and flower best in full sun. As you can see in the photo they form unusual seed pods that are decorative in their own right.
This is another Australian native that tui and bellbird love, and also has intriguing seed pods. There are a variety of different banksias, but B. integrifolia is one of the hardiest and will grow in the far south as long as it has very good drainage. They are great for sandy coastal gardens or a dry bank. If you have a very frosty garden you could try growing it close to a wall or with shelter from overhanging trees, as long as it will receive at least half a day’s sunshine.
If you have any questions about planting for wildlife we are more than happy to answer them if we can. Just flick us an email at [email protected]
Author - Janine Thompson 2021
Really fun and informative. The wonderful garden and superb bird life are a bonus.
Debbie Gutherie, Dunedin
Had a wonderful time with four children aged 9-12 visiting Earthlore this January. There was plenty for the children to do and we all found the insect displays and habitats very interesting. Highly recommend for a family afternoon out. Also would be a wonderful place for a group of adults who...
Fantastic fun! Loved taking my grandsons here... and about time I made another visit. Will book it in this summer!
Jacqui Knight, Auckland