Garden stumperies: your questions answered
Fed up of conventional flower beds? Looking for something more than a lawn? Why not try a revived garden trend – the stumpery?
Q. What is a stumpery?
A. Although not an attractive name, a stumpery can be a thing of beauty. A stumpery is traditionally made using old tree stumps, with the decaying process creating nooks and crannies for new plants to go. Upending stumps can also reveal a wonderful network of fascinating roots, which adds extra visual interest. A stumpery can also be made from a tree trunk or a collection of substantial logs.
Q. When did stumperies originate?
A. Although you may never have heard of a stumpery, they actually date back to the 19th century. A Gardeners’ Chronicle article in 1856 referred to a ‘rustic root garden’ and in a following article, the term stumpery was used for the first recorded time. Examples were primarily found in the 1850s at Biddulph Grange in Staffs and at Arley Hall in Cheshire. The most famous – and largest – stumpery is undoubtedly HRH King Charles III’s stumpery at Highgrove.
Q. Where can I source a stumpery?
A. If you’ve had an area cleared of trees, you may already have a stump or a trunk waiting. If so, you may want to have the stump excavated to expose the roots. If you haven’t got an existing stump or trunk, contact tree surgeons, arborists, land clearing companies or your local council and enquire about claiming any unwanted stumps or trunks.
Q. How do I plant a stumpery?
A. First clear the site of your stumperyof weeds and wash away any old mud from the roots. Dig a hole big enough to place the stump or trunk in – you probably want at least 30% underground – and backfill gaps with soil for stability. Use compost to fill in the cavities between the roots or where the wood has split open. Choose plants based on the stumpery’s location – sunny or shady – adding bulbs to the deepest pockets of compost and alpine plants to the shallower areas. Water well initially, then keep watered as the weather dictates.
Q. Do stumperies benefit a garden?
A. As well as providing an extra place to plant pollen-yielding flowers and encourage homeowners to recycle a natural material, the decaying nature of stumperies proves a haven for insects, vertebrates and invertebrates including beetles, bees and woodlice. Wide, low stumperies will also provide shade and stumperies placed next to a pond will create safe, cool spots for frogs, toads and newts.
Q. Do you have to add plants to a stumpery?
A. If you’re worried your stump or log doesn’t have deep enough crevices to hold a suitable depth of compost, fear not! Nature will take over and you’ll be surprised at what naturally grows on or in the wood with no intervention. Additionally, an old tree stump or log can look majestic simply decorated with some glass tea light holders. Try hanging versions if there are protruding branches or roots but always supervise a naked flame or opt for battery-operated candles.
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