Here in the Castle gardens I am beginning with my plans for the stumpery amongst the shady serpentine paths in the garden, down by the ‘moat’ wall. There isn’t a moat, but this fortified wall gives the appearance of the house standing above watery defences. Its brick and stone façade is studded with low railings and draped in harts tongue ferns and less welcome interlopers. I am adamant that after years of designing gardens for clients who wanted symmetry, box balls and pleached avenues, there will be none in sight. Here I will have a touch of Victorian Gothic, and true to the original layout of the garden in this area, there will be no broad flight of steps connecting one terrace to the next, but a more meandering approach to the sea, through these dark recesses of the garden. This wall creates a secluded walkway, with mats of Cyclamen hederifolium underfoot, the wall to the right as you walk downwards and to the left, the huge limbs of the Sequoiadendron giganteum sweeping to the floor. Most of these lower branches are dead, but I love the almost human form of them and the tree surgeon is suffering my eccentric demands to leave them in situ.
We have been removing trees on the Olivers site all week. Mostly Leylandii, but some dead poplars and so on about which I have already posted. Once they are cut down the stump is dragged out and lightly charred in the fire to remove soil and give an interesting colour and texture to the bark. I rather like the romance of keeping these giants in the garden. They may not be here above ground, but their contribution to the landscape lives a little.
My stumpery won’t be too like the Bannerman’s. We won’t be building the remnants of a gothic façade as at Highgrove, or perhaps even creating that stump archway. I imagine ferns and shade lovers amongst the roots, and envisage these stumps rearing out of the border so the forms intrigue you as you walk down. Amongst these roots might be the odd surprise. The removal of old hedges has revealed forgotten statuary underneath and I think the slightly shattered statue of Diana that we have discovered should be left to rest on her side in the stumpery, not suffer the indignity of being hoisted back on her plinth, headless. I feel she would suffer from cold after years in her leaf bed.
Ultimately this stump path will lead you onto the Victorian fernery. More of that another time.