One day several years ago, before I’d started Minerva’s Garden, my sweet hubby and I were driving down the street in front of our house, and we noticed that the landlord of a nearby four-plex was doing some remodeling. He was removing these cool columns from the front of each rental unit. Of course, we pulled over and asked him what he planned to do with them. He replied that he had no plans, and was probably going to chop them up for firewood! Calming our racing hearts, we asked him if he’d like us to remove them for him, and he agreed. So we ended up with four really neat, wood columns for free! We filled up the back of our station wagon, brought them home and stored them in the garage.
And there they sat for several years.
Two of the columns we decided to use in a downstairs entertainment room, but we had two left over. I, of course, wanted to use them out in the garden somehow, but I was never really sure where they should go or what they should look like.
Here’s the before of what the columns looked like:
And here’s the after:
I went to Pinterest for inspiration, and found this from Eddie Ross:
I loved the look and the line of the columns, especially with the mass provided by those gorgeous barrel shades at the top. I thought I could recreate a garden project inspired by the design elements embodied in these lamps, giving it my own special spin!
So how’d we get from before to after, and how can you do the same?
Let me show you.
Our columns are 5 feet tall. The top flat part of the column and the bottom outer diameter are about 8 inches. The inner diameter at the bottom is around 6 inches. The column itself narrows to the top.
They are hollow columns. Here’s the bottom:
This meant that we could install a post in the ground, and then put the column over the top of the post in order to secure the column. Notice that it has a zillion little edges on the inside. This had an impact on the posts and the shims that we could use–but more on that in a minute.
Our initial steps were to remove the hardware that was on our columns, fill the holes with wood filler, allow it to dry, then sand the columns and wipe them down with a damp cloth to remove any residue. (By the way, be sure to wear a ventilator and eye protection if you are working around old fixtures and recycled building materials. Surfaces that were painted prior to 1980, like these columns, may very well have lead paint on them.) Finally, we applied primer, fresh paint and polyurethane to the columns. We chose to use semi-gloss paint, because it stays cleaner looking outdoors in dusty conditions.
2. Posts and Shims
The easy way to do this is to purchase a couple of 8-foot long wooden poles at the hardware store. Instead of poles, we had some 4-by-4 posts laying around, and used those. They were a little big for our columns, so we set a table-saw blade at a 45-degree angle and cut the square edges off in order to make the post circumference smaller. You fit the column onto the post and use shims to fill the little spaces between the post and the inside surface of the column.
Here’s the trimmed-down post with shims inserted, and the column covering it all:
It’s not pretty at this stage, but remember that the post is completely hidden by the columns. The bottom of the post goes underground, so none of this shows when the project is installed. The point is to make sure that the column is secure and not wobbling around on the post.
My hubby then marked off two feet beyond the bottom of the column, and cut the post to that length, matching the depth of the post hole.
3. Installing the Posts
Now you can dig your post hole and plant your post. My hubby put some gravel in the bottom of the hole to improve drainage, then planted the post and backfilled the hole with gravel, tamping it down tight as he went with a heavy metal tamper. Using 5/8-inch-minus gravel for this purpose ensures that the post and column stay in place.
If you want to place your columns near your home, framing a doorway as we did, be sure to leave at least 18 inches between the outer walls and the columns. You’ll need that extra space in order to easily access the walls when it comes time for painting and other maintenance.
4. Plant Containers and Drain Trays
I used plastic 2-gallon pots that you get when you purchase plants at a nursery, because that’s what I had on hand. The bottom diameter of the container was 8 inches, so I got a hard-plastic planter-drain tray that was 10 inches in diameter. We drilled 1/4-inch holes around the outside edge of the drain tray, so it looked like this:
These holes allow the water to drain away from the column when watering–a good thing.
Here’s the container in the drain tray:
We drilled a small pilot hole in the bottom of the container, the drain tray, and the top of the column, then used a long screw to fasten the container and tray to the column. After that, we applied kitchen and bath silicone on the top and around the screw head. This will help keep water from running down the screw hole and rotting the post underneath. The silicone requires 24 hours to cure before planting and watering.
Paint the pot and tray to match your columns, and touch up any spots that need it on your columns as well.
5. Now for the fun part–Add your plants!
I put a little bit of damp potting mix in the container, then I planted fern and golden creeping jenny. I used my hands to place potting soil in the pot, pressing down with my fingers so that all the roots were covered with soil, and making certain there were no holes. I then watered everything in well to ensure the roots of the plants were good and damp, and the soil settled around the roots. Then I filled in with more potting soil and watered a final time.
We spread pea gravel around the columns, and I sprinkled turquoise and clear polished colored glass pebbles from Dollar Tree on top for a little extra sparkle!
Every time I look at these columns now, I feel like I live in the ancient Roman city of Pompei, and that I should be wearing a toga, lounging on a chaise as someone drops grapes into my mouth . . .
but I digress . . .
What if you are sitting there, behind your monitor, and you have fallen in love with these columns and Pompei and someone feeding you grapes, but you don’t have garden columns sitting around in your garage–what then?
I have some ideas!
There are a variety of options for finding or making columns:
- Building materials sources: Expensive–I’ve seen them online for as much as $500 and more, depending upon how ornate, large and weight-bearing they are. Ones like ours would probably run $100 apiece or so.
- Antique stores. I have seen shorter wooden columns in our local store starting around $70 each.
- Rebuilding centers: Prices and availability vary, but they will be cheaper than antique stores.
- Yard sales/Craig’s List: You may pick something up at a yard sale, estate sale, or on Craig’s List or your local classifieds.
- Make them yourself: By far the cheapest way to go.
You can make columns out of thin-wall PVC pipe that plumbing stores sell, which are normally used for drainage pipes. You can choose the diameter and length of pipe to best fit your desired finished look. When placed vertically, a 6-inch diameter PVC pipe will hold at least 15 pounds of weight on top without a problem.
Next, you will want a flat PVC cap, not threaded, to go on the top of the pipe in order to finish off the column. (Note: Hardware stores only usually sell smaller dimensions of pipe, four inches in diameter or less. If you want wider pipe to create your columns along with the flat PVC caps, shop at plumbing stores or irrigation supply sources.)
You will need PVC glue in order to affix the cap to the pipe, which you can buy at any hardware store. Make sure you have your cap positioned the way you want it, because once this glue dries, you’ll never get the cap off again. You don’t need to use a PVC primer before applying the glue–the adhesive itself is enough.
You can then use whatever you like to decorate your column. For example, you could add a round, flat wood disc a little bigger than your pipe diameter to the top to create a neat ridge effect at the top of your column. Just screw it all down into the top of the post inside the column. I’ve seen post caps online made of copper, for another decorative, but more expensive, look. If you want to paint it, be sure to scuff up the surface of the PVC pipe with some sandpaper before priming, so the primer will adhere to the plastic more efficiently. Painting the plastic can also help to prevent warping in warm weather climates as well. You could use a textured spray paint to create the look of cement, for example, or whatever you like.
Just like our wooden columns, you’ll place your PVC-pipe column on top of a wood post, sink the post into the ground, and screw your container and drain tray into the top of the column and post.
You can make your own PVC-pipe column, and decorate it simply, for around $33. That’s a lot better than $500 or even $70, dont’cha think?
Now you can live in Pompei as well–with your glorious garden columns!
What are you working on in your garden? I’d love to hear all about it in the comments, so stop by for a visit!
Thank you so much for your friendship and support–I appreciate it!
Till next time,
I’m participating at:
Between Naps on the Porch Metamorphasis Monday, Mod Mix Monday at Mod Vintage Life, Masterpiece Monday at Boogieboard Cottage, Make It Pretty Monday at The Dedicated House, Making The World Cuter Monday, Nifty Thrifty Tuesday at Coastal Charm, Nick of Time Tuesday Blog Hop, Pinterest Challenge at Centsational Girl, Pinterest Challenge at Young House Love, Pinterest Challenge at Bower Power, Tuesday Garden Party at An Oregon Cottage, One Project Closer Before And After Series, Tuesday’s Treasures at Uncommon Slice of Suburbia, Cowgirl Up Tuesday at Cedar Hills Ranch, Tutorials and Tips Link Party at The Stories of A2Z, Wow Us Wednesdays at Savvy Southern Style, Outdoor Wednesday at A Southern Daydreamer, Bunny Hop Party Every Wednesday at Bunny Jean’s Decor and More, Home and Garden Thursday at A Delightsome Life, Cottage Garden Party at Fishtail Cottage, Feathered Nest Friday at French Country Cottage, Open House Party at No Minimalist Here, Inspiration Friday at The Picket Fence, Transformation Thursday at The Shabby Chic Cottage, Home Sweet Home Friday at The Charm of Home, Potpourri Friday at 2805, Delightfully Inspiring Thursday Party at Delightful Order, Thrifty Things Friday at The Thrifty Groove, Fertilizer Friday/Flaunt Your Flowers Party at Tootsie Time, Sweet and Simple Fridays at Rooted In Thyme, Show and Tell Friday at My Romantic Home, Addicts Not So Anonymous at Addicted 2 Decorating, Weekend Bloggy Link-Up at Serenity Now, Mission Possible All About Color Party at Thistlewood Farms