You have heard the old saying about making a silk purse of a sow's ear and similar homilies urging you to turn "lemons into lemonade." Any farmer will tell you, there is almost nothing more apt to arouse that optimistically resigned attitude than a stump that stubbornly repulses all attempts to remove it. If you have a tree stump refusing to go away gracefully, give up and make a feature out of it.
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Rotted potted plant
Most hardwood stumps will dry and harden quite a bit before they finally rot enough for complete removal, so use that to advantage. Use a broad auger bit to drill several holes deep into the stump -- keeping the holes as close together as possible, and allowing a 2.5 cm (1 inch) wide band of undrilled wood all around the perimeter as a lip. Use a chisel and hammer to remove the rest until you have a large, pot-like cavity. Fill with potting soil and plant for a rustic flowerpot that will never tip over.
Two makes a bench
Thank your lucky stars if you have two similar stumps within 90 cm or 1.2 m (3 or 4 feet) of one another and at least 37.5 cm (15 inches) high. Get out a saw and a carpenter's level to plane them and match them exactly, then place a wide, thick board across them for a rustic bench. Add a few potted plants or a flowerbed behind as a colourful backdrop.
Impromptu birdbath or fountain
If you have a tall stump, try sitting a heavy stone bowl or terra cotta pot saucer on top and fill it with a few pebbles and water for a quick birdbath. If you prefer a more stable design, hollow the stump as for a potted plant, but sit a large shallow bowl -- preferably stainless steel or ceramic -- inside. Put a large rock in the centre if the bowl is more than a couple of inches deep so birds will have a safe place to stand while drinking. Plant dwarf sunflowers nearby for birds to snack on.
Checkers and mint juleps
When a big tree comes down, the resulting stump is often table-sized. That is a good thing if you need a sturdy outdoor table and do not want to buy one. Make a good thing better by carefully levelling, planing and sanding the top of the stump. Paint an old-fashioned chessboard on top and use a quality wood sealer to finish. Grab a friend, two chairs and a couple of mint juleps for a rousing bout of summer chess and gossip 'round the old oak tree.
Build a tree
Maybe you liked that tree, but the storm did not. Well, you will never exactly replace it this way, but you can get a "feel" for it. Drill a large, deep hole in the centre of the stump and set a tall piece of steel pipe the same diameter as the hole -- painted black or brown -- down inside. Add crosspieces to the top of the pipe using open-ended pipe "T"s and short pipe lengths. Run wires from the end of the crosspieces down to small eyebolts set into the top of the stump. Plant vines at the base. As they grow, train them up the "trunk" and across the "branches" of your new tree.
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