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Get Thee to Thy…..Stumpery!

By March 23, 20092 Comments

Unusual Features in Landscape Design

img_19281Photos by Julie Messervy

Just before mud season began, we had two local woodsmen over to clear-cut a two-acre stand of maple, oak, and pine trees that were blocking our view of a wooded ridge in the middle ground and New Hampshire fields and forests in the background. Thaddeus and David arrived with an excavator with “thumb” for pulling out the trees, roots and all, and a skid steer for pushing them around into piles. By the end of three days, we had a massive pile of stumps, none of them burnable and all impossible to hide. What to do with these unsightly creatures?

Luckily, I had been to a lecture on Highgrove, the Prince of Wales’ astonishing family home and garden near Tetbury in Gloucestershire, England. The speaker was David Howard, head gardener to Prince Charles, and the lucky man who gets to care for his carefully-crafted environmentally-correct paradise. With beautiful organic vegetable gardens, a hedged stroll garden, and wildflower meadows, Highgrove has many special features, but perhaps the most unusual is its Stumpery.

I’ll admit that when I saw David’s slides of the Highgrove Stumpery, I thought it was one of the strangest looking gardens I had ever seen. If memory serves, Medusa-like coils of roots, picked clean of soil and stone, create a land of bone-like fallen giants, set into a mass of ferns, mosses, and epiphytes. What a brilliant way to use old stumps. How could I make one that would work with our land, our stumps, and offer something special here in Vermont, so far away across the pond?

I decided to make it a surprise, so that you couldn’t see it from the house, and nestled it down into the edge of the forest. Using the excavator with thumb, we placed each stump one atop the next to form a U-shaped enclosure with walls that are over twelve feet high, open to a view of our pond across the newly-cleared land. Here’s a “before” picture of our Stumpery, which forms an enclosing wall around my husband Steve:


After some grading, and the replacement of some large stumps to form a “gateway,” this is the end result:


Once we’ve finished grading and seeding the land around it, and carpet it with moss and ferns, I’ll take another picture to show you how it turns out. In the meantime, here’s a link to learn how to make a backyard woodland stumpery. And here are some other links to “pretty” stumperies that will inspire you to build your own.

I have a feeling that from now on, whenever anyone clears some land up here, you’ll find a Stumpery somewhere nearby—the next new thing in Vermont!

Another Unusual Feature

FYI, just for fun, here’s another feature I saw on my travels—this from the Three Stallion Inn in Randolph, Vermont (the site of our winter wedding seven years ago!) This past year, the Inn installed a pipe that travels underground down a ravine to feed a pond at its feet. To the staff’s surprise, a massive ice sculpture was formed by the constant feed of the pipe. It continues to get taller and taller the longer the cold weather holds. I think it looks like Old Man North Wind a blowin’….



Join the discussion 2 Comments

  • Cory Haskell says:

    Julie, I like the stumpery that you guys have created! Are you going to fill in root pockets with ferns and plantings of some sort? I envision a nice stone table with benches (sort of like the one at the Macri’s), with lots of moss, ferns, and other natural shade plantings tucked in everywhere within the walls! Maybe even a climbing hydrangea or something arching over the entrance way. Very cool!

  • Who knew we were ahead of the curve out here in Oregon?
    The stumpery looks like many a clear cut zone…only on purpose. Bet the process of naturalizing it could be sped up if you innoculate the pile with fungi of some sort.
    See Paul Stamets 6 ways mushrooms can save the world. TED Talks