gardening around my new tree stump

rmontcalOctober 3, 2011

A moment of silence for the silver maple that came down in my front yard last week.... It was dying and threatening the house.

My wife and I decided to leave a large stump. It is a memorial to the tree that is gone, it is architectural to anchor a front yard garden and it is practical, because grinding the stump would cost money and make planting in that area infeasible for a few years.

Basically, I want to share this picture with you and solicit feedback. I think it will be great next year to see the stump surrounded with perennials and color, etc.

I may also put a pot on top of the stump OR dig out a bit of the stump and plant directly inside the rotting stump.

Cool, right?

BTW, why is there not a tree forum here on GardenWeb?

Here is a link that might be useful: Tree stump

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Hi rmontcal,

There is in fact a tree forum (see link below). However, I'm sure that plenty of people here would be more than willing to help out with some of their thoughts.

I completely understand your situation. The maple tree in my front yard recently came down in a windstorm, and I'm stuck with a huge void.

What you do with this probably should relate the what else is going on in your yard - assuming that it's not the only thing in your yard. What's the style of the house and associated landscaping?

Off the cuff, I would be tempted to plant a vine at the base and allow it to ramble over top and around. Some initial thoughts for plant selection would be Virginia Creeper, a native Clematis - I guess that depends where you live - (Clematis virginiana), or maybe even Climbing Hydrangea.

- Audric

Here is a link that might be useful: Gardenweb Trees Forum

    Bookmark   October 3, 2011 at 8:09PM
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karinl(BC Z8)

I don't know, but it may be that your stump will still sprout for a couple of years as my willow stumps do. This makes it necessary to be able to get at the whole stump, unless you want to grow a new silver maple out of it...

For the first while, the stump is like a solid, elevated surface. A place to sit, a place to put your coffee while you sit next to it, or rest groceries when you unload the car - depending on its location on your lot. A pedestal for a table top, if it's flat. If it is in a useful space, the last thing I would do is garden around it - I'd clear and level the space to make it easier to get to.

Once it starts to rot, that's the time to plant around it if that is a logical place for gardening in your yard. And given that it's quite tall, I'd actually think about having it cut down further - maybe now, maybe later - as it will become unstable and there is more weight there than you might expect.

Karin L

    Bookmark   October 3, 2011 at 9:41PM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

Unless you are planning to increase the non-grass space around this stump, I don't think you'll be able to do much digging there. You could do a raised bed to give you height to add some soil without having it wash away to the sidewalk and driveway. It could be one of those 2-sided corner types to give you a flat, higher surface. The proximity to the sidewalk and driveway are very limiting in such a small spot, though. In my mind, I could see ornamental grass there.

It does look like the center is rotted and would be easy to hollow out enough to hold/hide a pot. With a bit of research, you could likely find something that would be happy growing directly in the hole, although I think it would dry out too quickly for me that way. Guess it would depend on how deep you get the hole, amount of soil, the particular plant, yada yada.

I'm sorry, I feel the same way about not being able to see enough to know what I would do. A shot from the street showing the whole yard and the stump's position would be helpful for inspiring more ideas. How tall is it? In a few years, it should be pretty easy to hack away with an axe if you get sick of looking at it. Keeping it buried under a pile of leaves would help it decompose quicker but it sounds like you kind of like this stump and most people wouldn't want to look at a big lump of leaves in their front yard for years. I have 3 stumps in my yard and have made a flower bed around one, I think it was oak. I like to step on it while I water so I can reach everything well, don't step on the soil so much, and it keeps creepy-crawlers off of my feet.

    Bookmark   October 4, 2011 at 11:12AM
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Thanks for the initial feedback. I will post a picture later today that gives a better sense of the front yard and the house.

I do like the stump - like I said, part of the decision to leave it was to have an architectural structure to garden around. I do agree that with all of the roots under that ground cover (which I don't really care for, BTW) I would probably have to install a raised bed around the area. You can just tell from the picture in my original post that the yard slops away from the tree down to the sidewalk. So I could definitely build that up somehow.

    Bookmark   October 4, 2011 at 12:18PM
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OK, here is a bigger picture showing the whole house and yard. You can see the size of the stump and the size of the house, the location of where there used to be another stump, etc.

I'm also going to post this question and these photos in the tree forum.


Here is a link that might be useful: house

    Bookmark   October 4, 2011 at 6:07PM
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I can see the appeal - that is one cool stump. I rescued one earlier this year from a building site that was almost petrified, 5 ft tall and riddled with old holes and nesting cavities. It's been "planted " amongst the cedars in the far corner of my backyard for the birds to enjoy.

Looking at yours, I would be tempted to drill a hole in the centre of it to insert the base of a solar lamp pole, securing it with cement.
You may choose to display your house numbers or street address signage on the base as well.

If you want plants, the creeping vine idea is a good option. Or you could also remove enough of the the rotted core to accommodate
a 14 -16" round cocoliner. An lush (but unthirsty) asparagus fern could drape over the sides or whatever other annual flowers you prefer.

You should look into appropriate ways to preserve the stump and protect the structure from new water damage, especially if you're considering a raised bed there. Are termites and carpenter ants a concern in your area?

    Bookmark   October 5, 2011 at 12:25AM
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bahia(SF Bay Area)

Leaving a stump that big in such a high visibility location would bug the hell out of me, do you know/care what your immediate neighbors feel? In my area it would only cost a couple hundred dollars to get that stump ground, I'd imagine that you spent much more than that to cut up and haul away the fallen tree. I'm surprised that no one else has made comments along these lines...

    Bookmark   October 5, 2011 at 1:20AM
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karinl(BC Z8)

Well... I was thinking that looks like one relieved house to be free of what must have been a very domineering tree. Myself, I am a proponent of rapid tree succession in urban environments... harvest the old, plant the new. That's after waiting too long to cut down three domineering trees around my house, and being incredulous, after they were gone, of what a relief it was. And then being surprised how fast new trees filled in. Why oh why did I not do that 10 years earlier???

I'd be too cheap to spend a couple of hundred on grinding the stump, but I would have had it cut down further. I don't actually find it that attractive at that height; especially now seeing the whole yard I think it could look pretty suave cut to about 8 inches (definitely shorter than it is wide) and flat. However, to each his/her own, and what I have been pondering since you posted this is, what I would suggest for your yard if the stump were NOT there! The tree has actually altered the topography of the yard, and that makes it all quite awkward. That lump will rot down, but it could take upwards of a decade. I think one thing I would do is figure out whether you need a new tree, and plant one somewhere else if you do.

But I think that's the way I would proceed - what is your long term plan for the yard, ignoring the stump. Then do something around the stump to integrate it with the new look until it rots down.

Karin L

    Bookmark   October 5, 2011 at 3:13AM
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catkim(San Diego 10/24)

I was waiting to see the picture with context. Wow, that is a huge stump, and I'm sorry to say it completely overwhelms your garden, even without the rest of the tree. While I understand the concept of persistence of attachment to something you once loved, as far as garden design goes, it's not an elegant statement.

Tree stumps can become part of the landscape in certain types of gardens, usually much larger in size, and with surrounding forest still standing to provide some context, and even better when the stumps and logs become covered with moss and ferns. But in this more civilized setting, I can't make it fit in. I would grind it out, reduce the mound to the level of the grass, and consider the design of the whole garden, not this one corner.

    Bookmark   October 5, 2011 at 11:46AM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

I've looked at the new pic a couple times and the only way I can mentally picture a garden around this stump would be to get rid of all of the grass except for lawnmower-width paths. That stump is so big and tall, the yard is so small compared to it, that's the only proportionate solution I can imagine. Is that a sunrise or sunset? If it's rising, my main concern would be a new deciduous tree to regain afternoon shade in the summer.

I do agree that stump, although spectacular, does not belong/look good there but also certainly understand not wanting to spend money having it removed. Tough situation.

    Bookmark   October 5, 2011 at 1:02PM
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cat beat me to the punch. What you've got there is a big hump with a big stump. In its present state, I don't see a satisfying incorporation of the two elements with additional plantings to create something architecturally anchoring.

If you like the stump and want it to stay in its present state, well, I'm stumped. There's rot in the core which could easily be whacked away with a hatchet in order to snug in a pot or to fill with soil for a plant or two. Be tempted to go with a vine that'll drape rather than anything that adds additional height. And over time, it will just rot away more from the inside out - woody layers will go first eventually leaving you with a raggedy bark shell.

But contemplating alternatives... do you know anyone with a chain saw who could take the stump down further? Have you called around to see about stump grinding fees for a 15", 20", or whatever stump? (It wouldn't be anywhere close to hundreds of dollars here, especially if they left the chips for you to use elsewhere on the property.)

I've had lots of trees cut down - obviously location dictated grinding or not. Most were in mixed tree and shrub or fern bed locations so were just cut as close to the ground as possible.

    Bookmark   October 5, 2011 at 1:21PM
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deviant-deziner(Oh zone)

Halloween is coming up. How about carving it into the shape of a pumpkin ?
Not fond of pumpkins ?.. how about a bear standing on its hind legs to scare the deer away ?

To my minds eye, the stump does nothing to enhance the landscape and your home. Its disproportionate to the scale of the house.

It looks like Linda Bobbit threw it out the car window after a night with Paul Bunyan.

    Bookmark   October 5, 2011 at 1:29PM
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I certainly appreciate everyone's candor.

I'm disappointed that you all aren't feeling it the same way I am. I'm new to this, so I haven't really been able to appreciate your concerns about proportion. For me, it is something different and that's what I like about it. A stump chopped down to a few inches above the ground looks unfinished. I think this looks like more, like a monument of sorts.

I suppose I should give some consideration to what the neighbors might think. The best thing about this situation is that I can always remove the stump. But I'd like to be able to post some pictures in the Spring and impress you.

To purple - that is sunset.
To deviant - Lorena?

Thanks all.

    Bookmark   October 5, 2011 at 11:02PM
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deviant-deziner(Oh zone)

make us proud.
you see something that we don't.
that takes vision.
take stumpy and do something that will make us eat mulch for breakfast.

looking forward to your spring photos.

ps. thanks for the name correction. don't know how I could have forgotten that .

good gardening to you

    Bookmark   October 6, 2011 at 12:31AM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

rmontcal, I like your attitude and just wish I could see the stump through your eyes. But I'm having an easy time picturing a thoughtful and caring person humming "I did it MY WAY" while doing - something beautiful and hopeful - to the stump.

Glad it was on the east side.

deviant, I knew what you meant and thought it was pretty funny.

    Bookmark   October 6, 2011 at 11:07AM
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bahia(SF Bay Area)

Just an aside re:planting over a grinded stump; you can do so right away if you had the stump ground at least a foot below the soil level, you mound new soil higher over the stump knowing it will settle, and stick to planting shallower rooted perennials or small shrubs and not another tree in the same spot.

Or you could take the opposite approach and either carve it for some temporary sculpture or use it as a starting point for adding sculptural elements. Here in California I've seen lots of palm trunks carved as tiki's and redwood stumps carved into bears or other animals.

Large stumps left as sculpture look better to me when they are upended and reset on their side to show the roots and planted up. I've seen one photo somewhere of an entire English garden of such large stumps with lots of ferns.

    Bookmark   October 6, 2011 at 12:39PM
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