Tree Stump Planter

In March 2021 we had a very large, two-stump River Birch removed from our property. Its extended branches threatened our roof and deck.

When it was removed, I asked the tree removal service to leave the stump cut a little higher, as I had envisioned hollowing out the stump to serve as a plant container. That decision also saved us a couple of hundred dollars! We also kept behind three large stump cuttings, about 18” to 24” inches high.

On Instagram I saw a post from pshgardening that sprung me into action!

This was the post that reminded me to get up and get busy over the long holiday weekend!
This is what our tree stump looked like a couple of weeks after it was cut down. The large established roots of the River Birch pulled an extraordinary amount of sugar water which poured down the sides where it was cut. There was little we could do with this in 2021.

Thinking the stump would be significantly dried out in 15 months, we set about carving out one side of the stump. The cut area had hardened considerably and for quite a while it had stopped weeping.

My husband mapped out a circle and drilled holes in a circular pattern. We learned later, this was not the best method. We found the wood very dense and still moist.

We did our research after that difficult start. Advice: start research and watch videos before starting a project, not after! Live and learn!

This is not the drill bit to use for hollowing out a stump! It did however work well later for drainage holes.
My husband went to a big box store nearby and purchased a fortzner circular drill bit, which was a lot faster. The wood was tough to remove because it had not completely dried out yet, since it was connected to a very large root system. Here we’re about half way there at 3 inches deep.
Short video clip of using a Fortzner drill bit.

When we reached the desired depth of about six inches, we drilled drainage holes from the side as seen below. We tested with a hose and water flowed freely through the holes we made.

I lined the bowl with burlap and filled with a mixture of Miracle Gro Moisture Control Potting Mix and Black Kow compost. Because the stump is attached to a rooting system, it may still serve as a moisture source for the flowers. Time will tell.
One stump down, one to go in this permanent location. The completely severed stumps should be easier to work with!
In this full sun location I planted lantana, Proven Winners ”Blue My Mind” and some purple super bells. The latter two should trail nicely down the stump! I also pushed in some nasturtium seeds so we will see if they take!

This project took two to three hours. I am hoping the fully separated stump cuttings will be dryer, and easier to drill out. I love the look and it’s a different way to feature pretty annuals or as a focal point for a trailing perennial. I would assume the tree stump would provide winter insulation. I love using containers and have several terracotta, ceramic or stone types scattered about in my garden. While I have plastic and resin containers, they are made to look like pottery or stone. I am trying to cut down on any plastic in my garden. If you have a tree removed, consider repurposing the wood or the stump as natural and textural container in your garden.

Update! We completed the second stump!


It will be fun to experiment with different plantings. I’ve seen some beautiful sedum/succulent stump gardens, as well as plantings with different greens, combining those with an upright and trailing growth habit!

My Master Gardener Journey

Today, I began my journey to be a Delaware Master Gardener. I first heard about the Master Gardener program in 1994, when I entered my city back yard in a garden tour contest (I didn’t win anything) but I got on a mailing list and received information about the program.

Delaware Master Gardener official logo

Fast forward to 2001 when I began a new career at the University of Delaware College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. I learned about the Master Gardener volunteers who help extend university research to the public. My new career coincided with a new home, three-quarter acre plot without a shrub, flower or tree, so I was eager to absorb the many fact sheets made available to the public.

Over the past 20 years I’ve gotten to know and admire the people involved in this program. I’ve certainly enjoyed spending my lunch breaks in their demonstration garden, and as my position officially switched to communications, helping to promote their workshops and outreach events such as their open house. I’ve also been thrilled to be a part of their many celebrations and hallmark anniversaries.

I’ve long known that gardeners are incredibly generous people. They love creating, growing and sharing. Getting to know the Master Gardeners affiliated with our land grant university only strengthened my opinions.

I wanted to be a part of their ranks!

While I know a lot about Cooperative Extension, and have learned through the successes and mistakes of my own garden, I am eager to have the formal training that this program will provide.

Because of COVID and the danger looming over the Delta variant, we will be receiving our 12 weeks of training via Zoom.

I am looking forward to sharing my journey here each week, sharing the resources that will be taught to my class via Extension professionals.

Stay tuned!

Master Gardeners are awesome!

I am very lucky to work in very close proximity to the Sussex County Master Gardeners, who are a volunteer corps of Cooperative Extension. I am not sure how many are in currently active in the county, but judging from their monthly meetings, we have more than 100 active volunteers. Each talented individual brings something unique to their volunteer service. We have Master Gardeners who write press releases, others who do training of staff and administrative work. Many go out into the community and teach at libraries and garden centers. Others answer phones on our seasonal helpline, and a large portion work in a teaching garden, known as the Demonstration Garden.  Recently my office moved toward the back of the building and my window overlooks the hydrangea section. I can see University of Delaware’s blue and gold tent, under which many free or very low cost workshops are offered during nice weather.

The Demonstration Garden is open to the public, who benefit from the clearly marked flowers, annuals, trees, shrubs and specialty attractions. Each year, something in the garden is added and changed. A big emphasis in the last few years or so has been on Accessible Gardening, or “Making Gardening Smart and Easy” by incorporating raised beds, pulleys and the  many tools that are available to encourage gardening at any age. I can still bend over and kneel to weed and dig, but it is going to get harder as I age. Good to know these resources are around. Nothing should stop anyone from gardening!  Sussex County Master Gardeners do however, have one special day, their Open House, this year on Saturday, July 13, when the Master Gardeners will be there in force, to answer questions, conduct workshops, sharpen tools and share their enthusiasm and knowledge. There is something for everyone; a children’s garden, with fun things to touch, taste and smell, a shade garden, and if I am not mistaken, a beautiful contemplative garden too.

When I retire, and if they’ll have me, I will sign up for the intensive and very thorough training offered by both University of Delaware and Delaware State University’s experts.  In the meantime, I am content to drift past the flowers and sneak a couple of photos on my lunch hour! If you are in the area on July 13, you can too! Here’s more information on the Sussex Master Gardener Open House and here is a link to pictures I took at the 2012 event.

Photos taken with my old Nikon D50, kit lens 55-200mm

Walk through the shade tunnel
Walk through the shade tunnel

Each year the Master Gardeners who tend to this demo garden, add garden art. Love this bird bath!
Each year the Master Gardeners who tend to this demo garden, add garden art. Love this bird bath!

They don't call it bee balm for nothing! These are a pretty shade of  magenta
They don’t call it bee balm for nothing!  Two are busy collecting. These Monarda are a pretty shade of magenta!

A perfect spot to contemplate, read, rest and smile
A perfect spot to contemplate, read, rest and smile

The view from my office window. Hydrangeas!
The view from my office window. Hydrangeas!

All plants are labeled with the common and official Latin name. Those plants that are native to Delaware have a special designation at the bottom right.
All plants are labeled with the common and official Latin name. Those plants that are native to Delaware have a special designation at the bottom right.

This bee has a pollen mother load on its legs!
This bee has a pollen mother load on its legs!

Touch and smell  - part of the Children's Garden
Touch and smell – part of the Children’s Garden

A bold burst of red, just showered by the sprinkler system!
A bold burst of red, just showered by the sprinkler system!

An Acuba and fern share a shady spot
An Acuba and fern share a shady spot

Coral Bells
Coral Bells. As an educational Demonstration Garden, all plants are clearly named.

Herb Garden. Think they'd mind if I snipped a few sprigs here and there?
Herb Garden. Think they’d mind if I snipped a few sprigs here and there?

The wonderful world of bees!
The wonderful world of bees!

George Harrison’s memorial garden in the UK

The Beatle I admire the most was George Harrison, and my affection for him grew when I learned he was an avid gardener. Olivia Harrison recently posted news of a contemplative garden created in his honor. This is a permanent garden, unlike the one that appeared at the Chelsea Garden Show in 2008, which was also spectacular! And here is another link about the Chelsea tribute garden! And this page has some great videos:

I particularly love this free- form bench.
I particularly love this free- form bench.source:

This new garden is a meditative garden, according to the media release on George Harrison’s website Do you see the engraving on the left side of the bench? It says, “Now I’m so happy I found you” from his beautiful song on the White Album, Long, Long, Long.

The website describes how the garden was created and provides a diagram of the planning and planting. It looks as though they recycled the Pavilion from the Chelsea garden into this new one. His son Dhani once said in an interview that his father would get lost in his gardening, so intense was his concentration that it would get dark and dinner cold, because George was so focused at the task at hand. I can relate to that. I can’t tell you how many times I put something in the stove or oven, and then ran out to do a little weeding or pruning, only to get carried away and come back to a burnt pizza or soup!

It is a long-term goal of mine to add features, colors, and flowers inspired by George’s music, lyrics, and favorite garden practices. I hope and have suggested that the Harrison estate or The Material World Foundation might put together a pictorial garden book, or even produce a line of garden products inspired by George, his favorite flowers, art, by his lyrics, colors of the 60s and 70s – the proceeds could help promote horticulture in areas or communities where a little color, beauty and contemplation is needed. Hey if Martha Stewart can sell spades and garden art, I think it would be great to have inspiration from a man and gardener who really felt the passion for digging in the dirt and adding beauty and life to our lives!