Today we’re visiting with Bonnie Plikaytis and her stumperies.
My husband and I live in Big Canoe, a woodland community in north Georgia. I have been gardening this acre of land in Zone 7 for the past seven years. In 2018, we visited the stumpery at the Rhododendron Species Botanical Garden just south of Seattle in Federal Way, Washington. A stumpery is an arrangement of woody material like trunks and root wads (root balls) to create a habitat for ferns and companion plants. The woody material is arranged in an aesthetically pleasing form to create pockets conducive to the growth of the intended plants. Since I live in a woodland area with lots of woody debris, it seemed only natural to build a stumpery or two myself.
The first stumpery was built in November 2018 of logs from a large downed oak tree. The gentleman and crew that does the rock work in our garden arranged the large, heavy logs in a structurally sound manner. Once the logs were in place, I filled the hollow logs and crevices between the logs with raised-bed soil.
The stumpery was placed in the garden such that in the spring the azaleas native to the property provided a lovely backdrop, as seen in this 2020 spring photo. The evergreen to semi-evergreen ferns in the stumpery include beautiful wood fern (Dryopteris pulcherrimal, Zones 6–9), shaggy shield (Dryopteris cycadina, Zones 5–8), autumn fern (Dryopteris erythrosora, Zones 5–8), tassle fern (Polystichum polyblepharum, Zones 5–8), hard shield fern (Polystichum aculeatum), East Indian holly fern (Arachnoides simplicior, Zones 7–9), and Siebold’s wood fern (Dryopteris sieboldii, Zones 6–8). Companion plants are strawberry geranium (Saxifraga stolonifera, Zones 6–9), moss stonecrop (Sedum acre, Zones 4–9), and miniature wintercreeper (Euonymus fortunei ‘Kewensis’, Zones 4–9).
After a week with 7 inches of rain in early June 2019, we were surprised when the stumpery grew chicken-of-the-woods (Laetiporus sulphureus), a bright orange, edible bracket fungus.
This fungus was a colorful addition to the stumpery for many days.
In January 2020 after 6 inches of rain in two days, Galerina marginata appeared on this moss-covered log of the stumpery. Galerina mushrooms contain amatoxins—which cause sickness and vomiting followed eventually by liver damage and, if not treated promptly, death. Though toxic, these mushrooms provided a striking contrast in color and texture to the verdant green moss. These mushrooms disappeared overnight, as quickly as they had appeared.
To give a sense of the stumpery in relation to the shade garden in which it resides, this is the view from our deck. The area includes a collection of plants that creates a palette of diverse green hues as well as a variety of forms and textures, which complement the Tennessee fieldstone pathway leading to the stumpery from the garden path.
This collection of plants includes giant leopard plant (Farfugium japonicum var. giganteum, Zones 7–10), bamboo fern (Coniogramme japonica, Zones 7–9), royal fern (Osmunda regalis, Zones 2–10), variegated Solomon’s seal (Polygonatum odoratum var. pluriflorum ‘Variegatum’, Zones 3–8), sweet flag grass (Acorus gramineus ‘Ogon’, Zones 5–9), ‘Autumn Bride’ heuchera (Heuchera villosa ‘Autumn Bride’, Zones 3–8), and oakleaf hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia ‘Snowflake’, Zones 5–9).
The second stumpery, built in May 2020, has an abstract form. The root wads (balls) were given to us by a neighbor who was cleaning their property. After arranging the root wads, I used water pressure to clear the dirt from some of the roots to enhance the crevices.
The stumpery was planted with evergreen plants taken from our garden. These include beautiful wood fern (Dryopteris pulcherrimal, Zones 6–9), tongue fern (Pyrrosia lingua, Zones 7–10), ‘Blue Arrows’ rush (Juncus inflexus ‘Blue Arrows’, Zones 5–9), white rain lily (Zephyranthes candida, Zones 7–10), moss stonecrop (Sedum acre, Zones 4–9), and ‘Coral Reef’ sedum (Sedum tetractinum ‘Coral Reef’, Zones 5–8). Three Indiana geodes are tucked among the roots to give added texture. The roots appear glossy from a drenching morning rain.
This photo gives a view of our ‘kitchen garden’ that houses the abstract stumpery. We call it the kitchen garden because it is the view from the bank of windows at our kitchen sink. This garden gives us hours of viewing pleasure as we go through the day. The prominent plants in this area are Japanese roof iris (Iris tectorum, Zones 4–9), ‘Archer’s Gold’ thyme (Thymus citriodorus ‘Archers Gold’, Zones 5–9), wormwood (Artemisia schmidtiana ‘Silver Mound’, Zones 4–9), spreading yew (Cephalotaxus harringtonii ‘Prostrata’, Zones 6–9), and deodar cedar (Cedrus deodara, Zones 7–9). The bench design was inspired by a Japanese timber bench and was handcrafted by a local master woodworker. The birdbath was created from natural granite boulders.
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