A stumpery is a garden feature made from parts of dead trees. This can take the form of whole stumps, logs, pieces of bark or even worked timber such as railway sleepers or floorboards. The pieces are arranged artistically, and plants, typically ferns, mosses and lichens are encouraged to grow around or on them. They provide a feature for the garden and a habitat for several types of wildlife. The first formal stumpery garden was built in 1856 and they remained popular in Victorian Britain.

Stumperies have been described as "Victorian horticultural oddities" and were popular features of 19th-century gardens. The reasons for their popularity vary but it may be a result of the Romantic Movement which emphasised the beauty of nature. Their popularity may also be attributed to the increasing popularity of ferns as garden plants and ferneries designed at the time. Ferns were very fashionable, and hundreds of new species were introduced to Britain from around the world. The stumpery made an ideal habitat for these shade-loving plants. Stumperies may have also been used in place of rockeries in areas where suitable rocks were in short supply. Their popularity is once again on the rise.


Stumpery at the Château de Chaumont, France

The stumpery with ferns at Biddulph Grange, Staffordshire

Large Stumpery Gardens look amazingly like natural sculpture galleries. Big is Best. But small will do for urban gardens or particular themes. 
Stumperies can vary in size from a handful of logs to large displays containing dozens of full tree stumps.
The use of storm-damaged or diseased trees is not uncommon and can save the landowner the cost of their removal. 

*Note: I personally DO NOT agree that anyone should use diseased trees or plants in their landscapes or garden beds.

Upcycling Nature's casualties gives new purpose, and a place to thrive for many plants, birds and animals. Starting a shade or rain garden with lacy ferns and ornamental foliage plants adds to your contribution to the ecosystem, the textures and dimensions of your garden themes, and looks beautiful as surprise garden spots.

Most gardeners, like myself, have done a form of this garden feature, but didn't know it had a name - we do it anytime an oddly-shaped branch or log is found near streams and ponds, or piled at the curb after tree-cutters have their way with dead tree amputations and removal.

Upcycling stumps and branches is not only great from the ecological standpoint, but as an interesting sculptural garden feature, when surrounded by plants that would grow around them in nature, and show them off. I also like to use as path and flower bed
edgings. Quite a few garden features can be created using dead wood. I've covered a few inconvenient, but visually-interesting real tree stumps that i didn't want to pay to remove, with pots of plants or statues.

The traditional stumpery consists of tree stumps arranged upside-down or on their sides to show the root structure, but logs, driftwood or large pieces of bark can also be used. 

The stumps can be used individually, or attached together to form a structure such as a wall or arch. Where tree stumps are unavailable. a more modern, angular look can be achieved by using railway sleepers or old oak floorboards, and some companies sell waste timber or driftwood specifically for the purpose of constructing stumperies.

Plants such as ferns, mosses and lichens are often encouraged to grow around and on the stumpery. 

Stumperies provide a home for wildlife, such as frogs, toads, lizards and small mammals. I draw the line at reptiles and beetles. Be wary and vigilant in eliminating rabbits and rodents.

I've used lots of discarded natural wood to decorate my gardens....washed up driftwood, dried cholla cactus branches, eautiful chunks of petrified wood from Nevada that was gifted to me, and small logs from doomed trees, cut down by the city. The more unusual, the better. Wood un-preserved, undiseasd, and covered in lichen, mosses and such are perfect for my design needs. It gives the garden a more natural feel. Much like mini forests would look. My previous property had natural elements just being blown down by storms, or dropping from old growth. I treated myself to lots of big bonfires with extra stuff I would have had to clean out. I had it made, in terms of materials. But I now have an urban garden, so i depend on grabbing cut-down branches, and driftwood provided by my fisherman friends. I bemoan the hurried decision when i moved to leave behind an awesome base of a tree covered in dead roots that had a "Medusa" effect. That one could have been the centerpiece of a xeriscape or bird habitat.

Stumperies work best in shady or damp areas, where mosses or ferns grow naturally, or are designed to do so. Many tropical and foliage plants love the atmosphere. This garden theme delivers a mini-forest feel, and it's easy to do. If you have no shade, a few branches and small logs can be used to outline a planting, edge beds, and be arranged in sunny gardens. I do it for my cactus and succulent gardens. I use dried cholla cactus branches, driftwoods and Manzanita tree branches for interest - cholla branches are decorated with holes all along the branch in a pattern, Manzanita are thin, smooth and graceful. 
They have lots of ends shaped like thin antlers. These look amazing standing or "planted" in the center or along ends of garden beds that contain horizontally placed branches, chunks or thin logs. I mail order the decorative, non-native small, and more unique branches from aquarium and reptile breeding 
suppliers, and growers of the plants the stumps came from.

Obviously, Stumpery Gardening can be practiced in many garden situations, except for very formal gardens. And obviously, non-purists can find many branch and tree types made for aquariums that are not organic. Resin branches are available. But for our purposes, we'll say use the natural branches mostly, and add a few resin, if you wish to get shapes you want. After all, my gardens contain a few knockout and weatherproof silk flowers filling in gaps that appear in my floral gardens. I don't frown upon non-organic design. You do not, however, want to create a Dead Tree Garden - you want this concept as a garden feature in a broader theme.

The secret is not to use the trees as just statuary, but fill nooks and crannies with soil and plants that enjoy shallow planting and are easy-care. These are also great for growing and training vines, or to partially cover, as in a forest setting. I've planted moss over some chunks that had lichen already on them. Depending on where you place the pieces, stuff will grow naturally on them, as they would in a wooded area.

Small beds in a larger garden make pretty stumperies. You don't have to go big. And you don't have to make it a focus.

Below is a photo of my raised garden cactus theme utilizing stumpery. Any size, and most garden themes, can be a home for tree limbs and dead roots

The first stumpery to be built, at Biddulph Grange, Staffordshire, in 1856, was designed by the artist and gardener Edward William Cooke for the estate's owner. The stumpery at Biddulph Grange consists of stumps placed into a 10-foot wall on either side of a garden path, and used as a scaffold for the growth of ferns. 

A famous modern stumpery is that at Highgrove House, Gloucestershire, the home of Prince Charles, which is considered to be the largest stumpery in Britain. The Prince built the stumpery from sweet chestnut roots, held in place by steel bars, when he first purchased the estate in 1980, and it now provides a home for organically-grown ferns, hellebores and hostas.

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