It was a cold autumnal day as we wandered through the maze of dramatic upturned tree stumps softened by the plantings of ferns. A primitive and strangely atmospheric place, a fernery beckoning you to continue along the trail and discover the hidden gems around the corners; we had entered ‘The Stumpery’ of Highgrove in Gloucestershire.
Previously, back at RHS Garden Rosemoor in Devon, an area of Lady Anne’s Garden had been identified as worthy for renovation. The area is above the underpass as the path is followed towards the ‘Green Ship’ children’s play area.
It was decided that a stumpery would fit in very well within this part of the garden. The area offered a damp environment with a shaded aspect. The research trip to Highgrove certainly helped us to plan our own design. The project will evolve over a number of years. We chose which established plants to keep, move or remove, and the ground was cleared of unwanted undergrowth in preparation.
The first steps
In April, David, Phil and Alex began work on the first stage of the project. The ground was badly drained in places so perforated drainage pipes were installed to relieve this. The outlets of these pipes allow the water to drain down through the rocks of the underpass. Then a wide undulating, meandering path was dug out with a digger and a layer of hardcore, followed by chippings, was added and compacted down. The excess soil was used to build up the borders either side of the path.
Just recently, the next stage was undertaken; the arrival of the stumps! Not one or two, but nine – and they are big! These were sourced on our land from the river bank and were remnants of work previously carried out by the Environment Agency.
They were hauled up by a loader tractor on to the forklift and transported to their new resting place. They are perfect for this job as they are oak, which decays very slowly and provides the gnarly roots we require for best effect. Dylan spent time cleaning the stumps with a hosepipe to free them of mud and debris to show them off at their best.
Holes were dug to sink the stumps into the ground and stabilise them at the same time. It took many hours of hard work to do this; Jonathan, David, Dylan and Phil spent plenty of time positioning them in the correct place for best effect. These are the ‘bare bones’ of the stumpery.
Work will continue in stages over the coming months and we hope to open this area to the public in the not-too-distant future. We will keep you updated on this exciting project as it is created.
See more stumperies
Visit these UK gardens to see stumperies
An English Stumpery Garden
This garden at The RHS Flower Show Tatton Park took a stumpery as its inspiration