Stumped?

For many reasons, we may be forced to remove a tree in our landscape. It could be that it wasn’t in the correct place to begin with, it wasn’t healthy or it had simply reached old age. But, whatever the reason, we must decide what to do with the leftover stump. It can be removed by physically grinding it out or by using a stump-remover pesticide to accelerate decomposition. If you want to get creative, though, you can use the stump for something a little different.

Use your imagination and think about what you would like to see in the location. A stump could provide a function in your landscape. I have seen people screw a round piece of wood to the stump and make it a table. If you have the skill set, you can also use the tree trunk pieces to make chairs. For families with small children, a kid-sized table can be constructed for picnics or tea parties.

If you removed a larger tree, you can paint or carve a board game, such as chess or tic-tac-toe, into the top of the stump. For tic-tac-toe, you can paint rocks for your game pieces. Make the rocks garden-themed for a fun backyard activity.

Petunias are a great annual for a stump planting as they come in an array of different colors and bloom continuously through the growing season. Photo by Jenn Fisher, Cooperative Extension.

Also for larger stumps, you can grind out the middle of the stump and create a container for planting annual flowers. If the stump is located in your lawn, the annuals will be happy with the water provided by the sprinkler system.

Other functional uses that add décor to your garden include water features and bird baths. You can carve into the top of the stump to create a basin, or you can attach a decorative bowl. Plant nectar sources, such as California fuchsia, columbine or lupine, near the bird bath to attract hummingbirds and other pollinators. Water features may be a little more intricate, but if you have the correct tools, there are all sorts of tutorials online.

One of my favorite uses of stumps is when a small window, door and roof are attached. Add a few garden gnomes, and you’ve got yourself a wee home. Vining plants such as trumpet vine, clematis or wisteria can be added to creep on the side of the stump giving it some dimension and a pop of color. I’ve even seen people add a miniature garden around the stump to enhance the effect of a small home.

If you are good with woodworking, you can leave most of the trunk, carve out the inside and add shelves to make a bookshelf. Use the carved out piece as the door by installing some hinges. Many people are adding these “take a book, leave a book” libraries to their front yards.

By using your imagination, you can turn the removal of a tree in to a fun, creative addition to your garden. The possibilities are endless. A quick search online will give you ideas and often instructions on how to do it yourself.

Jenn Fisher is the Commercial Horticulture Program coordinator with University of Nevada Cooperative Extension in Washoe County. Gardening questions? Contact a Master Gardener at 775-336-0265 or mastergardeners@unce.unr.edu.