How to DIY a Stumpery

A collection of stumps and old tree branches.
  • 4-8 hours
  • Beginner
  • 50-100
What You'll Need
Stumps, logs, branches, bark
Plants like moss, ferns, hostas
What You'll Need
Stumps, logs, branches, bark
Plants like moss, ferns, hostas

Stumpery gardens are making a comeback. While their rival the rock garden has maintained its place in many yards as an attractive landscape feature for decades, this blast from the past is just now regaining popularity.

What Is It?

Mushrooms growing on a stump in a forest.

Stumpery is a type of garden feature using parts of dead trees, particularly stumps (hence the name), but you can also use various logs, sticks, bark, and more. Once collected, these found tree parts are carefully arranged in a decorative area and supplemented with plants like moss, ferns, and hostas. The idea originated during the 19th century when Victorian gardeners began to fantasize about the beauty of nature, taking advantage of what would otherwise have been tossed off to the side.

The Benefits

A stumpery garden offers a few benefits. To start, they provide shelter and food for many animals such as rabbits, squirrels, chipmunks, and birds. They also promote rot in your garden by attracting little helpful decomposing buddies like snails, slugs, and fungi. Building a stumpery offers you a way to recycle old tree stumps. And of course, they offer a decorative area in shady parts of your yard by taking advantage of the beauty of nature.

Step 1 - Collect Stumps

A collection of tree stumps.

Obviously, before you can start your stumpery you're going to need to collect a variety of tree stumps. As mentioned above, you do not have to limit yourself to just stumps, but can supplement your creation with a variety of sticks, bark, and logs.

You can find tree stumps in many places. To get started, look around your neighborhood for any homes redoing their yards and ask if you can have what would otherwise be headed for the landfill. Take a nature walk through the forest to see what you can collect. If you don't have any luck with that, don't be afraid to call or email landscape companies or recycling centers to ask for tree stumps.

Step 2 - Choose a Location

A stump with a snail on it in the forest.

The best place to put your stumpery is in a shady spot in your yard, typically under a tree or a spot that's shaded by a building. When creating a stumpery, you're pretty much imitating a forest floor, which is shaded by the taller trees. That way, your stumpery will do well as a habitat for various woodland animals and other living matter.

Step 3 - Dig a Pit

The next step to creating a stumpery is to dig a pit. Your pit should be wide enough to fit all of the stumps in an upright position.

Step 4 - Place Stumps in Pit

Moss on a stump in a forest.

Placing your stumps in the pit you dug out should be fun, as it's the part where you can get creative and really design your stumpery. Arrange them in whichever way appeals to you, and don't be afraid to really play around with it. Once you've selected a spot for each tree stump, and all your bark and sticks, take your mallet and hammer it all into place for security.

Step 5 - Fill It In

Now that you've secured all of the logs into the pit, it's time to fill in any gaps with soil. At this time, make sure to really press the soil firmly around each stump to ensure they stay in place.

Step 6 - Add Plants

Ferns in a forest.

When it comes to creating a stumpery, the plants you choose are just as important as the stumps. Choose plants that do well in the shade such as ferns, hostas, and agapanthus. Of course, you should plant some of these around the stump, but make sure to put some plants in the little pockets, cracks, and crevices of the stumps, where plants like ferns will grow well.

Over time, other plants should begin to grow around your stumpery such as moss and fungi, but if you want, you can also plant some to get it started.