Stumpery Garden

This gardener uses donated tree stumps to create a very special landscape.

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Originating in the English romantic period in the 19th century, a stumpery is a garden whose structure is based on tree stumps. Quite characteristic of its era, it's a perfect example of the Victorians' romanticized and exaggerated sense of nature.

"A true stumpery is not just a stump that somebody has found and then planted," says Pat Riehl as she walks through a landscape filled with stumps that serve both as sculptural elements as well as home to many plants.

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Pat's garden consists of stumps that she got from a variety of sources, ranging from friends to local arborists who gladly donate leftover tree stumps to her garden. "The best stumps are the ones available," says Pat.

Stumps are often seen as waste from the garden, and no one usually knows what to do with them. Why not incorporate them into your garden beds? If your neighbors are fresh out of stumps, call construction companies or recycling centers and ask for tree stumps. It might take some searching but is well worth it.

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In this woodland garden, the plants are just as important as the stumps. Pat plants a variety of ferns, like Autumn fern or Japanese painted fern, in the niches and pockets of the stumps.

Unusual selections, such as the eared lady fern (Athyrium otophorum), complement more commonly used ferns.

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Have a look at the beautiful broad fronds of Siebold's wood fern (Dryopteris sieboldii).

To plant a stump, look for the planting pockets, which are the various nooks and crannies of the stump. Since the stumps generally have some soil and other organic matter already inside the planting pockets, simply insert the root ball of the plant into the pocket. Pat uses sphagnum moss to tuck around the root ball, therefore helping to retain the soil. Keep the plants in the stump watered thoroughly.

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