Victorian Britain and the advent of the ‘stumpery’

The Victorians certainly loved their gardens, and also their exotic trees – Cedars of Lebanon (Cedrus libani) could be seen in such abundance that “the traveller could scarcely pass a hundred yards down portions of the western roads [in London] without coming upon fresh specimens or groups of them.” Many also didn’t like the copper beech (Fagus sylvatica Atropurpurea), and by 1890 its planting had almost ceased. If we see a very mature copper beech therefore, perhaps it pre-dates this time.

However, this was not the full extent of the Victorian era in terms of arboriculture. They also liked their rock gardens, complete with exotic and pyramidal conifers, mountain ash, silver birch, rhododendrons, gorse, and broom, as did they like a lovely ornate stumpery or rootery. A stumpery was a collection of (usually hardwood) stumps, with ferns, mosses, and lichens growing upon them for ornamental purposes (and probably also fungi), whilst the rootery was a collection of upside-down mature tree stems with their ivy-draped (or any other climbing plant species) roots up in the air.

A stumpery would almost certainly be very good, ecologically-speaking – particularly if the stumps used were from large trees. Their provision as deadwood habitat for fungi, and insects associated with such fungal presence, is just one dynamic of how they may have been highly beneficial. Stumperies actually became very popular in Victorian gardens, following the first one being created at Biddulph Grange.

The original Victorian stumpery at Biddulph Grange. Source: Parks & Gardens UK.

Source: Johnston, M. (2015) Trees in Towns and Cities – A History of British Urban Arboriculture. UK: Windgather Press.

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Victorian Britain and the advent of the ‘stumpery’

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