Garden Photo of the Day

One Unique Focal Point

By Kim Charles

A large area around the tree was covered in thick ivy which had to be dug out.  Plantings in place now are mostly shallow rooted varieties since the tree's big anchor roots are still very much in evidence so anything with a large or deep root ball will have to wait. 

Victoria of south central Indiana has created one special focal point.

"We lost our huge beech tree in the fall of 2012 and suddenly I had a new large area of sun available for sunny perennials.  I had the thick ivy surrounding it slowly dug out over the summer of 2013 and started planting last spring (2014).  I’ve put in several shrubs, the fairy rose, chaste tree, peony, and a reblooming lilac, and one very small Carolina Silver Bell tree on the outer edges of the area since the big anchor roots of the tree make it difficult to find spots large enough for root balls of any size.  I’ve arranged a variety of creepers and shallow rooted small perennials around the base of the stump.  The tree stump which is about five feet across was hollow down to ground level and so makes a wonderful planter/focal point with lots of room for plants.  This year I have filled it with zinnias of two different heights, variegated nasturtiums and purple and chartreuse sweet potato vines.  So from three sides things seem to be pretty well taken care of.  Looking from the fourth side however where a large section of the trunk makes another planter there is still a lot more room to work with.  I’m sure a good bit of  adding, subtracting, and rearranging will take place in subsequent years but that’s all part of the fun.  The mulch around the tree goes down about 12-14 inches, to insure that all the ivy roots were well and truly gone, and so it is very well draining at this point. As the mulch decomposes and is added to with compost when new plants are put in I should have some really good soil to work with in a few years.  I’m curious as to how long the stump will survive since it is already being colonized by  various fungi——most interesting to watch.  Most of the “walls” are between 4 and 6 inches thick so it may take a while but in the meantime I have a wonderful planter to play with.  The flower border to the east, although partly shady, is loving all the new slanting and reflected light and the grape vines on the pergola to the west are just going crazy this year and have tons of little grapes growing away.  I’m sure the local birds will be feasting once the grapes begin to ripen.  I did hate to lose such a large, old tree but the new situation is also exciting and fun to plan and implement.  Hope you like it."

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This area, east of the tree stump, now gets much more reflected sunlight and some plants are happier for that and others have been relocated.

Last fall my handy husband built a limestone platform to level the area underneath the wisteria arbor and added stone benches.  Imagine my surprise when the wisteria bloomed wildly this spring.  Proof positive that root disturbance (to be nice we call it root pruning) will bring on lots and lots of flowers.

Looking to the north the existing border on the right has been extended on both ends.

View Comments


  1. frankgreenhalgh 09/09/2016

    This is the second post of this story, and the original comments have been deleted. This one also has 2 extra photos. So frustrating!!!!!!!

    1. User avater
      Tim_Zone_Denial_Vojt 09/09/2016

      I'm sure it's frustrating, Frank, but I think Kim will get the hang of it. The creator of this blog was let go during a major downsizing by Taunton press. Fine Gardening wants to keep it going, but it keeps getting passed on to people at the company that already wear many hats. I know first-hand that they work long hours, are overworked, and I'm sure underpaid. It will come together, my friend.
      cheers down under

      1. frankgreenhalgh 09/09/2016

        Hi Tim - You guys are so forgiving.

      2. User avater
        treasuresmom 09/09/2016

        Oh, my, Tim, let's hope they don't downsize this blog and get rid of it. I love seeing all the beautiful gardens Monday-Friday.

      3. User avater
        LindaonWhidbey 09/09/2016

        Thanks Tim for shedding some light on this confusing situation. Like everyone else here I would be saddened to see this site disappear. It's one of the reasons that I keep subscribing to FG.

  2. User avater
    meander_michaele 09/09/2016

    Here I go again...saying things twice but this is where the email that just arrived took me .

    First some venting..., having gpod all goofed up is like the sun setting in the morning and rising at is throwing me off, for sure. Ok now that little grumble is out of my system, to use a midwestern expression..."anyhoo"...let me concentrate on Victoria's great lemonade from lemons solution. Without a doubt, the departure of a major tree is always a sad thing but then we gardeners start looking on the bright side. It's always fun to have a reason to create a colorful flower bed and you are doing a great job with your choices for around and on top of the beech stump. And lucky you to have such prolific wisteria blooms! Don't be surprised if within a year or two, your wisteria vine is holding up the arbor instead of vice versa.

  3. User avater
    Tim_Zone_Denial_Vojt 09/09/2016

    Victoria, I love what you've done with the stump and that you are enjoying the challenge of the new light conditions in your yard. We had to cut down a three-story cherry tree that provided shade, a nice focal point and cherries for the birds. It was sad, but I had the trunk cut at about three feet and enjoy using it as a stand for pots and a focal point, too. But it is going through decay and it will be constantly changing. Sorry, enough about me.
    Great job, love what you are doing and love your Wisteria. Thanks for sharing.

  4. User avater
    treasuresmom 09/09/2016

    Victoria, love the wisteria. I knew if you root pruned you could get bloom but never dreamed you could get that much. ;)

  5. User avater
    LindaonWhidbey 09/09/2016

    Victoria, living around very old giant trees and winter wind storms, losing trees is a
    rather common occurance but ours have never cooperated quite so nicely as to make themselves into planters. Nature sure has a way of making gardening more interesting.
    We also recently had a shady area turned into a much sunnier site. Isn't it fun to explore different plants that you were never able to grow?

  6. sheila_schultz 09/09/2016

    Good morning Victoria! Your entire backyard must have been nothing but shade with such a massive beech, a trunk that is 5' across? Geez... talk about a lighting change!!! Was there a lot of damage to your gardens when the tree was taken down?
    I love the planter idea, the first photo is very cool. You are going to have so much fun from year to year re-imagining your design! Have fun!!!

    1. wittyone 09/09/2016

      No damage while taking out the tree thankfully. A concern was it being so close to the garage, about 5 feet from the corner, and probably 20 feet from the back of the house It did take all day--- from about 9:00 till 5:00 with four people working and a big bucket truck brought in to take out the limbs along the trunk and lift the big trunk sections into their waiting truck. A safe and well done, but very expensive, job!

      1. sheila_schultz 09/09/2016

        Taking down regular sized trees costs an arm and a leg, but a mother of a tree? I've learned to put it into perspective... it's a whole lot cheaper than having the tree visit you in the house! Good tree folks are worth their weight in gold as far as I;m concerned. Your vision for turning this massive stump into a planter was brilliant... grinding down the stump would have been crazy expensive! Garden art rules!!!

  7. schatzi 09/09/2016

    Beautiful job of making the best of losing a tree. I too plead with FG to get it together and keep this blog going - it is a great community of gardeners and would be sorely missed.

    1. User avater
      Tim_Zone_Denial_Vojt 09/09/2016

      I've been told that FG really loves this blog, so they intend to keep it going as far as I know! It is a nice community and so fun to see all of the gardening efforts.

      1. user-7007498 09/09/2016

        Tim, thanks for the update on GPOD. I would hate to see it go, as I look forward to seeing a new post each day. More important, I have really appreciated connecting with this group of awesome gardeners.

        My post was lost today, as well as my conversation with Frank. I will not have the time tonight to repost. I just hope GPOD is not another casualty of corporate downsizing. It seems like the push toward LEAN is resulting in all of us losing many of the niceties of life.

        1. frankgreenhalgh 09/10/2016

          Kev. - FYI your original comments are still on the initial post of Victoria's story on the web-site i.e. there are 2 posts on the site.

  8. user-4691082 09/09/2016

    I might have to open up my wrist if something happens to GPOD! How will I find out how Kevin made out with the Aussies yesterday? Or, how will I ever learn new Aussie speak from Frank? Now, back to Victoria! I just envy you that stump, it's like a stage! I'm sorry it cost you so much to have removed. We pay to put them in, we pay to have them taken out...I lost a large viburnum this spring and all of the surrounding host as have fried! Thanks for posting.

    1. eddireid 09/10/2016

      Rhonda, shall we lie down in the street?

      1. user-4691082 09/10/2016

        If it would help! Lol!

        1. eddireid 09/10/2016


  9. user-7008244 09/09/2016

    Nice job Victoria! Love what you did in the garden. -B

  10. eddireid 09/10/2016

    Losing a giant beech tree must have cost quite a few tears, Victoria, but like a good gardener you have triumphed. The idea of turning the stump into a planter has worked really well and also given some great solutions. I have been passing a huge ash stump which had to be cut down a few years ago but inspiration, apart from sticking a large basket on top has eluded me so far. It, too is interestingly sprouting various fungi, and I love that.
    Thank you for sharing your solution and your garden - truly lovely.

  11. eddireid 09/10/2016

    No GPOD! The idea is heartrending. No, no no no!

  12. User avater
    HelloFromMD 09/14/2016

    Love the frog on the stump.

  13. Cenepk10 09/14/2016

    So nice, Victoria ! I have a giant pecan tree loaded up with those creepy spider webby nests that I wish would fall down. Very nice !!!!!

  14. anitaberlanga 09/15/2016

    I LOVE that frog. and I envy you your wisteria - mine did not survive the Winter (my fault). Once we finish renovations I may try again.
    Your garden is gorgeous!

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