The History Anorak

The History Anorak

Monday, 29 August 2016

Garden features: stumperies

Entering the stumpery at Biddulph
A stumpery is a garden feature similar to a rockery, but made from the remains of dead trees. They have been a part of large and show gardens since Victorian times. The first was created in 1856 at Biddulph Grange, but they became popular after that and are still made today. Interestingly, within a fortnight of my visiting Biddulph I saw a second stumpery just a few miles down the road at Trentham Gardens. This one is modern, however, and nowhere near as large as the original.

Tree stumps and root systems, often collected from land clearance across a country estate, are piled up, or set into a wall, and secured with posts and metalwork to create an unusual, often unearthly, but effectively natural, structure.

The idea behind a stumpery is to create an attractive backdrop for greenery, and they are usually the home of ferns, mosses and lichens.  They rose to fashion at the same time as ferns were being introduced into English gardens, around the era of the Romantic Movement - the 'natural' backlash to the Industrial Revolution. Coincidentally they are also great places for wildlife, because the rotting wood attracts various insects, which attracts birds and small mammals, and so on.

More ferny stumps
The largest stumpery in Britain was constructed in 1980 by Prince Charles. (I always like that expression, when people say a member of the royals 'built' something. It's unlikely that he ever got his hands dirty - the gardeners would have followed his instructions - but he probably talks to the trees.) It's at his country home, Highgrove, and is a display area for hellebores and hostas.

If you fancy creating one in your own garden it's extremely possible and there are plenty of DIY helpers online. They suggest you can even use old railway sleepers if you can't get hold of dead tree roots. But wouldn't that be a sleepery?



  1. Fascinating - and a great use for old trees. I had heard the word before but never really thought about it.
    Interesting they are linked with ferns and mosses - some of my favourite things.
    Thanks for sharing :)

  2. I appreciate the fact that stumperies are great for wildlife but I confess that I have absolutely no desire to have one. Prince Charles may well have done some of the building of his stumpery, he's very much a hands on gardener at Highgrove.


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