I was whimpering as usual about my massive jungle (the big bed, about 4m square and a monster to weed or keep under any control at all really) and my mum suggested I replace it with a stumpery. That spring they'd seen a great one during a recent National Trust garden visit to Sizergh Castle:
It does look rather nice, but fewer ferns than I expected!
In my mind I saw a huge mass of chopped off tree trunks from what used to be trees, and at the centre of each, hollowed out spaces full of smart ferns, fancy hostas and other suitably shady princesses, like a chopped off forest. Mum set me right. The stumps were brought in, donated from a local bypass, and for the proper stumpery aesthetic you don't put them in the ground right way up, they go in upside down, so you can coo over the exotic shapes of the roots.
As the fascination with the grotesque and the creative use of construction byproducts suggest, stumperies are one of the odd children of the industrial revolution, created by Victorian worthies with a mania for fern collecting. Presumably, one walked through the gully, then the grotto, then emerged into the stumpery, all the while explaining how much soil/stone/trees you had to move to make that happen, and absent-mindedly stroking your fob-watch.
I do have a certain amount of buried wood in my back garden anyway (old fence posts, some random logs, the old house number sign) as we're in the range for Lesser Stag Beetles, and I've seen one or two on the patio, but I've not really made a feature of it. This clip of Joe Swift creating a stumpery in 2010 for Gardener's World really illustrates why.
"Everybody has a bit of their garden they don't quite know what to do with," he begins. Er, no, Joe. The problem is more that I have three plans for every space.
Still, here's a useful link to a nice technical piece for creating your own stumpery for when and if I change my mind. After all, you can go quite small: