An Old Stump

Fairy Garden Ideas – Tree Stump

One pragmatic and stylish fairy garden idea is to utilize an existing tree stump as a home for your little community. Maybe you just had a tree cut down for safety reasons or there’s an old stump that was never ground down and removed. Let’s change that eyesore into something useful and beautiful.

The initial setup is going to be the most labor-intensive and cautious. In order to get the central meat out of that stump, we’ll need to use some old world tools to get the job done. Depending on the end result you’re looking for, you’ll want to have either a pickaxe or felling axe on-hand.

If you’re looking for a waterfall/tiered appearance, start with the felling axe from the center and work your way toward the edge. Before you begin any work with either an axe or pickaxe, make sure to read the safety guidelines for that particular tool.

Felling Axe


When striking with any type of axe, be sure you’ve set your stance wide enough to where your balance is solid. Don’t spread out too far to where you’ll teeter over if the weight of your swing moves you. If you swing through completely, you’ll only need to concentrate on your balance. Make sure not to stand on any existing branches, roots, or uneven ground.

As you move from the center outward toward the edge, you can begin working the center of the area you’re cutting. The idea is to have the center be the deepest cuts with an angled slope upwards as you move out. Essentially you will be creating a concave “seat” in one quarter of the stump. Here is an example:


Depending on the age of the tree and the freshness of the stump, it may take several hours to complete the task. You can use peat moss to fill in the jagged strikes from the axe in the lower areas. This should level out the base and give you even ground to place your fairy garden home. If you have a pickaxe, you can use the blade edge to carve out the sharper points and forgo the peat moss filler altogether.

Woodworking Tools

If you’re somewhat of a perfectionist and aren’t satisfied with the gashes left by the axe, you can use some standard woodworking tools to fine tune your stump. With a set of chisels, a hammer, and some patience, you should be able to knock off any rough or splintered pieces inside the bowl.

Because of the long shape of a chisel, it will be difficult to maintain a curved angle. The more you chip away, the more you’ll create a “seat” and less of a “bowl”. Again, this isn’t a necessary step, but rather an option if you’d like to clean up the insides.

If you’ve cut out a deep enough hole in the center of the stump, you can fill it with a 70/30 mix of potting soil and compost. Don’t forget about drainage if you take this route.

Just as you would with a pot or planter box, make sure the stump provides a way for water to evacuate. We recommend using a long drill bit to create a ¾” hole (or several ¼” holes) from the lowest point in the stump angled downward toward the outside.



For lower or flat stumps, you will want to use a pickaxe to make your cuts. This style of axe should have a single pointed end and a flat blade-like end opposite. Utilizing the same stance recommendation above, swing the pointed end of the axe down into the center of the stump. When you’ve reached the desired depth, move the point outward toward the edge.

If the stump is flat, you’ll only need to create enough of a bowl for soil. This may only be a third of the stump face. That is sufficient for creeping plants to live in while give you enough of a flat surface for a thriving little fairy garden town.



After creating the basic bowl shape, turn the axe around and use the bladed end to carve away at the jagged, pointy parts of the stump. Again, exercise extreme caution when using an axe. The momentum from a solid swing can take the axe much further than you’d expect. You don’t want your legs getting in the way. If you’re fatigued, take a break or revisit the project the next day. It’s not worth injuring yourself.

When you’re satisfied with the shape of the bowl, provide drainage holes as mentioned before. This is integral for the survival of the plants. Although the container is technically natural, it won’t provide adequate drainage for plants and flowers. Use the 70/30 mix of potting soil and compost here as well.

Your Fairy Garden


Photo Credit: Barbara Stanley


With the hard work out of the way, now comes the fun part! It’s time to exercise those fairy garden ideas in your head. If you went with the waterfall method, you may be able to tier your fairy garden homes on the wall as you move down the stump. This gives the effect of a cliff-side city.

If your stump is a bit small for multiple homes, place your single abode at the base of stump interior and drape plants down from the side. Silk maidenhair ferns are a beautiful choice for this method. Drill a small hole in the top section of the stump and place the plant base(s) inside. It will look like a waterfall of gorgeous little leaves.


For low stumps with a center-cut bowl, you’ll have more options to work with as far as plants go. Treat the dish as you would any plant container. Place anything from a hardy fern or succulent to an array of beautiful perennials. With all of the flat space surrounding the bowl, you’ll have plenty of choices for placing the homes. Consider a fairy tree house in the very center to overlook your fairy garden community.

You’ll be happy not only with the authentic look of a tree-based fairy garden, but also with the fact that you’ve made good use of an otherwise ineffectual stump. It will make a wonderful addition to any backyard and is one of the most naturalistic fairy garden ideas we’ve come across.

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