Monday, November 30, 2009

The Stumpery

For two years I’ve been waffling about what to do with the last corner of my own garden that hasn’t been attended to. Like the plumber with leaky pipes and the cobbler whose children have no shoes, I spend my days making good decisions about the gardens of others, but simply cannot commit to a plan for this particular wasteland that I own.

The area in question is tiny, perhaps 75 feet long and about 25 feet wide. It is a gully that runs under a cluster of pines and sweetgums, and was filled until a few months ago with ivy and wild raspberries. During the process of cleaning out the scrub, I’ve had a few different ideas, one of which was simply filling the gully and planting a few understory trees. It has become a really convenient spot to throw the miscellaneous pieces of a couple of trees we’ve cut down, big branches that have been pruned, etc. Since we’ve lived here there has never been a sign of this being an active water route or anything like that…..until the rains of this past season! Now I’m clear that I can’t fill this gully in any serious way that’s going to affect the passage of water across my property and into the creek down the street. The obvious solution? A “STUMPERY!”

I first read about the Stumpery at Highgrove (Prince Charles’ estate in Cornwall) in 2007, and it seemed appropriately eccentric for my tastes. I allowed myself to be talked out of the idea and into the plan to fill the space. When I recently read that Prince Phillip (Charles’ father) asked, “When are you going to take a match to this pile?” I realized that the stumpery was just perfect for me…..that is exactly what Frank asks with some regularity when I start a new project!

In any case, I have officially committed to this area being my new stumpery, a collection based upon tree stumps that provide shelter for birds, chipmunks, snakes, and whatever else may choose to utilize the space (It’s far enough away from the house that I’m ok with that idea). It will also provide haven for shade loving ferns, perhaps a few hostas, trilliums, hellebores, and the like.
I’ll keep you posted about progress, but for the time being, I’m delighted to have finally made the decision to move forward!

This, incidentally, is a great book! I purchased it two years ago fully expecting it to be just a great coffee table decoration, but it is filled with very practical information. I think it was well worth the somewhat expensive price tag!


  1. This is the first time I'm hearing about a Stumpery and googling it, I realize that it's an exciting project. Good luck with it! I'm excited to see the progress...

  2. I'm curious how you got rid of the ivy. I have it growing all through the woods here. I cut and spray and pull and it comes right back. I'm pretty sure it's here to stay since it's made its way from the edge of my yard all the way to the street on the other side of my gully and to the back yards of all the houses around me. It was planted decades ago, I'm sure. I've been trying to find a way to get rid of it, but nothing seems to be working well.

  3. For the bulk of the English Ivy, I used a 6% solution of Roundup, which I repeated three weeks later. It was quite exciting to see it turn black and dead! (If I remember, the regular instructions for mixing creates a 1.5% solution, but you'd have to check the label). I still have to occasionally do touchup spraying and yanking, but 95% of the ivy is dead as a doorknob, and it's now very manageable. I'll probably do one more 6% spray in spring, as a "final bullet".

    Perhaps one day my stumpery will look as good as the one at Highgrove, but for now, anything is better than what it's been. It also gives me a chance to experiment with more shade plants than I've typically been buying.

  4. As a followup to the Roundup note, that 6% recommendation came from UGA. I'm not a big fan of chemicals in the garden, but this seemed the only reasonable solution. I had been pulling it for years, and was making very little progress. Like any spraying, it just needs to be done carefully, since Roundup kills anything it hits!

  5. Thanks Tim. I'll check out the UGA site. I've been using the knockoff version on my slope with periwinkle. I've sprayed three times and it still comes back. I've considered using the concentrate full strength with a spray bottle on the more stubborn plants. I love watching ivy turn black. :)

  6. It seems expensive initially to use a quart of the Roundup concentrate to get like a gallon of finished mix, but when you compare that to the months of yanking, it's worth it!

  7. Fantastic! It looks great! I know I am "late" in saying it, but I just found your blog and I am totally in love with everything I see - and read. So, I decided to start from the begining and that's why I am here...

    I would love to know what are the red flowers that one sees on the background. The whole picture and set is just perfect in my humble opinion.

    Ok, let me introduce myself. I am an old Brazilian lady that married an American man, and we live in the South Central US. And I've been desperately trying to learn all that I can about gardening. Your blog is a treasure that I will cherish forever. Thank you so much.
    Miriam Lange