Making a stumpery

Posted: Friday 11 January 2013
by Kate Bradbury

Dead wood makes a wonderful habitat in the garden, providing food and shelter for huge numbers of invertebrates including wood-boring beetles, solitary bees and woodlice.

Dead tree stump

Last summer, while doing a spot of gardening at my mum’s, I was disturbed by the sound of chainsaws as tree surgeons pollarded a huge oak in a neighbouring garden. At first I thought the tree was being chopped down, and I watched as men the size of ants scaled this giant, slicing through branches with their machines.

I was quite upset but, ever the optimist, I used the opportunity to collect some local, native logs to make a nice wildlife habitat in my mum’s garden. I was sure she wouldn’t mind. The tree surgeons and house owner were only too happy to oblige, and before my mum could say “what’s a stumpery?” I had filled her car boot and back seats with as much tree as her car suspension could manage.

Dead wood makes a wonderful habitat in the garden, providing food and shelter for huge numbers of invertebrates including wood-boring beetles, solitary bees and woodlice. It can come in many forms: a tree stump left to rot into itself can provide a rot hole for the larvae of Eristalis hoverflies; a pile of sticks can offer shelter to passing beetles, dead twigs left on trees may be colonised by lichens and moss; and a log pile – partially buried and made using local, native wood – makes a complete habitat, which can cater for anything from invertebrates to amphibians, hedgehogs and even birds.

A stumpery is similar to a log pile, but you can have a bit more fun with it. It consists of upright logs half buried in the soil, allowing moss, lichen and fungi to grow. Some gardeners plant ferns in and around the logs, adding to the interest. You can even plant a climber or rambler to grow over the wood.

The best location for a woodpile or stumpery is in partial shade, where the wood will remain moist and therefore support more life – including amphibians. Wood left in full sun will dry out quicker and support fewer invertebrates, but may be used by nesting solitary bees or as a basking site for insects and reptiles. If you have the space, why not make dead wood features in several areas of your garden? Leave the bark intact so small insects can take shelter in the cracks.

My mum’s stumpery isn’t very glamorous, consisting of a few logs placed on the ground and one upright and half buried (they were too heavy to do anything more creative with). I didn’t plant any ferns but they have already been colonised by a few mosses and lichens. I can’t wait for the wildlife to move in.

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ChristyRose 11/01/2013 at 19:40

Am thinking of doing a similar thing. I have built a pond in my garden and nearby I want to put piles of wood and ferns for the frogs and toads etc to have somewhere to hide.

happymarion 12/01/2013 at 09:12

I fell in love with stumperies when i saw the one built at Hanham Court whose owners had built the one at Highgrove. Mt one under my huge eucalyptus is a haven for wildlife though not on the same scale. It has foxgloves and mulleins in it too so is colourful and the bumblebees love it. I am sure all gardens whatever the size can have a little bit of wild naturalistic planting however small to help biodiversity.

flowering rose 13/01/2013 at 14:36

I did this with my ex-willow tree,and some 15 years on I still have the log as a seat-come-moss lichen habitate.

Joe_the_Gardener 18/01/2013 at 09:51

ould I just appeal to everyone not to go out into the countryside and start bringing wood home, instead of leaving it where it is already supporting its own wildlife. If you've got newly-cut wood on site, by all means use it, but otherwise leave it where it is

trillium2cv 18/01/2013 at 17:46

I would like to do something like this in a new garden but am worried that it will encourage honey fungus, which I seem to have in one area. I read online that the best way to discourage honey fungus is to make sure the stumps are infected with another fungus first, as the first one there generally wins. Is there an easy way to do this other than drilling holes and buying prepared fungus plugs. Is painting the logs with mashed up/liquified fungus another option? My local greengrocer has quite a range.

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