Stumpery is created to encourage the wildlife and ferns and mosses to settle

Flowering dahlia.
Flowering dahlia.

IT’S amazing, tomorrow is December; the garden team have completed wrapping up the garden with fleece and straw.

Herbaceous perennials have been cut back and we are ready to give the gardens a good top dressing of well rotted manure before the cold weather sets in.

Last year Izzy McKinley, our kitchen garden horticulturalist, had to plant the garlic cloves in pots as the ground was frozen solid, whilst this year the spring-like temperatures and perfect soil conditions means the garlic gloves have been planted directly into the beds, along with autumn onion sets.

To our delight a Dahlia imperialis has flowered for the first time, they are late flowering and so the frost normally gets to them first, it’s fantastic to see one in full bloom at this time of year!

In the walled gardens we have an exciting new project of creating a stumpery, we have identified a good area, north facing and damp, which will give a contrasting green border to complement the lovely old brick wall that is shadowed by the dramatic backdrop of Arundel Cathedral.

A stumpery is a garden feature made from parts of dead trees, and traditionally consists of tree stumps arranged upside-down or on their sides to show the root structure, but logs, driftwood or large pieces of bark can also be used.

The first stumpery was built in 1856 at Biddulph Grange, was designed by the artist and gardener Edward William Cooke for the estate’s owner James Bateman.

Plants such as ferns, mosses and lichens are often encouraged to grow around and on the stumpery.

Stumperies provide a home for wildlife and have been known to host stag beetles, toads and small mammals.

Stumperies have been described as “Victorian horticultural oddities” and were popular features in 19th century gardens.

The reasons for their popularity vary, but it may be a result of the “Romantic Movement” which emphasised the beauty of nature.

Their popularity may also be attributed to the increasing popularity of ferns as garden plants at the time.

Ferns were very fashionable and hundreds of new species were introduced to Britain from around the world. The stumpery made an ideal habitat for these shade-loving plants.

Additionally stumperies may have been used in place of rockeries in areas where suitable rocks were in short supply.

A famous modern stumpery is that at Highgrove House, Gloucestershire, the home of Prince Charles, which is considered to be the largest stumpery in Britain.

The Prince built the stumpery from sweet chestnut roots, held in place by steel bars, when he first purchased the estate in 1980, and it now provides a home for organically grown ferns, hellebores and hostas.

A few tips from the castle garden team:

Protect your less hardy plants from frost; garden fleece is good for this.

Prune back your roses by approximately half to stop the winds from rocking then back and forth. You can then prune them again in spring.

A good time to top dress your borders before the very cold weather, we use well-rotted manure or leaf mould.

Put aside a pile of leaves to encourage hedgehogs to hibernate for winter.

The castle and gardens are closed until April 2012, but we will keeping you updated on what’s happing, the 32,000 bulbs are nearly all planted!

Happy Gardening!