#WattsWednesday: The Stumpery

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Posted 15th August 2018

The Stumpery

Our stumpery at Watts Gallery - Artists' Village lies in a quiet area of woodland along a windy path which takes visitors up to Limnerslease, the former home of George and Mary Watts. The idea of the stumpery began to take shape after our garden volunteer group spent our Wednesday morning session seeking shade from the heat of our extraordinary English Summer this year and decided to clear nettles and brambles along the path. Once cleared, what should we plant in dry shade? This is one of the biggest challenges for any gardener.

Stumperies have been described as 'Victorian horticultural oddities' and were popular in 19th century gardens. Many varieties of ferns were being introduced from around the world at this time and the stumpery made an ideal habitat for these shade-loving plants. The stumpery also reflected the ethos of the Romantic Movement at the time and the idea of embracing the beauty of nature. The beginnings of a stumpery at the Gallery site were created by David and Sarah Baskerville, volunteers who have given up a huge amount of time and energy to the outside areas of the Artists' Village. However, this amounted to a few logs near the front entrance to the Gallery and since this flowerbed will be re-planted in the autumn, it was felt that these should be relocated.

With this in mind, one of our garden volunteers, Mandy Beard, espied a forlorn tree root outside St Nicholas's Church in Guildford, waiting to be removed as waste following extensive construction work. After a visit to see whether it was possible to re-locate it with the use of my truck, it was decided that it was too risky. Another email exchange, and then Pryer Construction offered to drop it by with the help of Chambers, a local waste removal company, and their grab lorry. The cherry tree stump arrived and was placed on a piece of plywood, which was then used as a sledge to pull the stump, towed by my truck, up to its final resting place in its woodland setting.

For stumperies, the root is generally positioned with its roots turned upwards, so that it can be planted with ferns and other shade-loving plants. Once we had this in place, we then began to explore the areas around the Artists' Village and found a whole range of interesting pieces of wood which have also joined our stumpery. A large birdbath has been placed here too.

Our stumpery will encourage wildlife and insects and is only the beginning. Stay tuned for news on our inspiration-seeking visit to Prince Charles's stumpery at Highgrove. Come and watch our stumpery develop!

Nicky Webber
Curator of Landscape

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