Gnarled, historic tree stumps squat among the many lush lime greens of euphorbias and metal blue hostas. Lots of white and pink Mexican fleabane (Erigeron karvinskianus) cascade down them and froth over the sides of the gravel paths. And big purple lollipops of allium flowers emerge from a mass of greenery under.
This backyard might look as if it has been right here for ever, but simply seven years in the past, it was a plain patch of grass inside the walled backyard of Arundel Castle, a 40-acre West Sussex property. That’s when Arundel’s head gardener, Martin Duncan, dreamed up the thought for what he calls a “plantsman’s stumpery”: a backyard full of selection crops, rising in and amongst a show of upended tree stumps, their roots pointing to the sky.
The stumps themselves are previous: the final vestiges of oak, yew and candy chestnut bushes felled by the Great Storm of 1987 across the stately residence’s woodland on the South Downs. “Among the yew bushes had been a minimum of 400 years previous once they fell,” Duncan says. “The foresters sourced the perfect from the property woods, excessive on the South Down hills, and with their assist they had been introduced into the gardens.”
Stumperies – beloved of Victorian gardeners – are historically closely shaded and overwhelmingly inexperienced, stuffed with ferns and pulmonarias. Pretty, however not what Duncan had in thoughts. Arundel’s stumpery is completely different; just one nook is neglected by the close by cathedral, with the remaining bathed in solar. That additional mild makes it potential to develop a far wider and extra vibrant plant palette.
With the assistance of a mini digger, Duncan hung out putting the stumps into essentially the most pleasing sample, with meandering gravel paths that permit them to be considered from completely different angles. They’re buried 50cm or extra into the bottom, trunk-down, roots splayed to the sky. This ensures stability, but in addition assists with the phantasm that these are as everlasting a characteristic because the fort itself. The centrepiece is a mound of earth topped with two massive stumps.
Every stump is a singular sculptural type, and residential to a micro-environment: crops are nestled into the tops, develop across the base and in each conceivable nook and cranny. Spots across the base that fall in shadow are perfect for woodland crops, such because the painted girl fern (Athyrium niponicum var. pictum ‘Metallicum’), pulmonarias, hostas and toad lilies (Tricyrtis formosana); however out within the sunshine, peonies, delphiniums, lupins and angel’s fishing rod (Dierama pulcherrimum) thrive. In autumn, six liquidambar bushes present fiery shades.
Flowering bulbs provide up color, too. The present begins in late winter with clumps of snowdrops, adopted by snake’s head fritillaries, scillas and wild tulips, together with the flax-leaved tulip (Tulipa linifolia), the Turkestan tulip (T. turkestanica) and tulip ‘Lilac Marvel’ (T. saxatilis (Bakeri Group) ‘Lilac Marvel’). As spring turns to summer season, purple alliums pop up: each conventional (‘Purple Sensation’), and quirky A. vineale ‘Hair’ with straggly inexperienced blooms, and A. ‘Spider’, with its firework flowers.
By mid-Could, among the stumps are draped in clambering clematis or ardour flower vines. The acid inexperienced of Mediterranean spurge (Euphorbia wulfenii) offers a foil for the rising spires of large viper’s bugloss (Echium pininana) lined in lots of tiny blue flowers, beloved of bees. This isn’t the one wildlife to be discovered right here. “There’s birdsong, stag beetles, voles operating throughout the paths, and hedgehogs overwintering below leaves,” Duncan says.
The general impact is each unorthodox and magical: a spot for the creativeness to run wild and, certainly, youngsters visiting usually assume the backyard has a Harry Potter or Hobbit theme. “You possibly can take a look at the stumps and select shapes: generally you’ll see an aardvark or a ram’s head,” says Duncan.
The Stumpery at Arundel is 17x22m, however Duncan believes it’s potential to downsize the core thought to a smaller, home backyard, swapping a plain garden for a densely planted mattress centred round a number of stumps. Test native gross sales websites, eBay and tree surgeons for stumps; go for hardwoods, resembling oak, for those who can. Taking the time to place them in essentially the most pleasing formation is significant earlier than digging them into the bottom. Soil enhanced with lashings of leaf mould will assist woodland crops to thrive. Duncan scatters blended annual wildflower seed (he makes use of Pictorial Meadows’ classic mix) between the stumps so as to add a natural-looking wash of summer season color from phacelia, poppies, cornflowers and different annuals.
Few have had the prospect to expertise the Stumpery’s glories up to now 12 months, because the backyard closed throughout lockdown. Duncan and his crew have continued to work (social distancing isn’t tough in such an enormous house), and a collection of movies has allowed the general public to observe progress on-line. However now Arundel Citadel backyard is open, a web site stuffed with upended tree stumps and selection crops seems like the proper type of escapism.