Garden Columns: A Pinterest-Inspired, Before-and-After Tutorial


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.


Until now.


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:


Eddie Ross designed these column lamps, which appeared in Southern Living Magazine and was repinned in Pinterest  (ps–what a cute dog!)

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.


1.  Columns


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!



That’s it!



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!


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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


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About AthenaMG

Athena McElrath is a Master Gardener with a love for gardening, decorating and cooking inexpensively. She enjoys working out in her urban garden in Southwest Washington State, watching the hummingbirds and other birds and insects, eating the wonderful vegetables, fruits and herbs that she produces from her garden, and just having a great time hanging out under the pergola with her family and friends (that is, whenever it stops raining long enough).
Container Gardening, Garden Decorations, Garden hardscape, Landscaping Ideas, Recycled Gardening, , , , , , , , , , , , , Permalink

73 Responses to Garden Columns: A Pinterest-Inspired, Before-and-After Tutorial

  1. Love that blue and what a neat idea!
    Thanks so much for linking up. Be sure to grab a button (or link back) and check our facebook page for weekly winners and contest updates! :)

    • AthenaMG says:

      Hi Jocie: Thank you so much for the kind comments, and the link back reminder–I linked late last night and simply forgot, so thank you! And I will check your Facebook page!

  2. Hi Athena,
    Nice to meet you! I see you are up for the pinterest challenge too.
    I love gardening too. I just got a new upright fern yesterday!
    Have a great day, Deb @LakeGirlPaints

    • AthenaMG says:

      Hi Deb: Nice to hear from you–thank you so much for stopping by and leaving a nice comment. And you can’t go wrong with a fern–they are beautiful!

  3. Diana says:

    I love that color in a garden! Classical columns are very important — maybe necessary — in Athena’s/Minerva’s garden! ;-)

    • AthenaMG says:

      Hi Diana: Your comment made me laugh–that’s right, columns are important at Minerva’s Garden–Minerva is the Roman version of the Greek Athena!

  4. lexa says:

    Athena- LOVE those columns. The blue that you picked is almost the same blue as my garden gate. It is such a great color for the garden. Isn’t pinterest a bit addictive..he he. So many good ideas out there and so little time :)

    • AthenaMG says:

      Hi Lexa: Nice to hear from you, and glad you liked the columns. I am a fan of blue in the garden, too! I do try to limit my time on Pinterest, but it’s been fun so far.

  5. Denise says:

    Love this idea! I have passed up columns I don’t know how many times at our local antique mall. Now I know how to secure them in the ground! I always try to make things much more difficult than they have to be. Thanks for stopping by!

  6. debra says:

    Oh thou Goddess of Craftiness and Creativity ….this is beautiful and in a million years I’d never have thought of anything so clever ….
    but it is fun for people like me to see what people like you do…
    Amazing / love it! :)
    I also love that I just have to check a box here to confirm that I am not a spammer and do not have to decipher some horrible graphics then type them in to leave a comment :)

    • AthenaMG says:

      Hi Debra: Your comment made me laugh! And we were getting so much spam we finally had to do something, and I found that little click box, so glad to hear it’s not so hard to deal with when leaving comments–thank you!

  7. Such a creative idea, and how cool that you got the columns for free!! What a great find.

    • AthenaMG says:

      Hi Jennifer: Thank you so much for stopping by, and yes, we were really fortunate in that find. I think that’s probably our best one to date!

  8. You did an excellent job with those columns, great idea, so much more fun when you find stuff people are throwing out or on the side of the road!!!

    • AthenaMG says:

      Hi Celeste: I so agree–I love to recycle things and turn them into something new and wonderful, if I can! Thank you for the kind words and for stopping by today.

  9. Love the columns! They look great!

  10. Mrs. Petrie says:

    I love how you styled the columns with plants. It’s a great detail around the door.

  11. Beth says:

    Athena – very cool! Once again I’m in awe of your use of color!

  12. Larry says:

    Very cool use of the columns! I have three in my gardens as accents… they make a great statement wherever used! Larry

  13. Kathy Ransom says:

    Now these are gorgeous! I love how they frame the doorway – these could easily replace fencing as a backdrop! Love it! I appreciate you sharing with Home and Garden Thursday,

  14. You lucked out on the columns. I’ve never gotten any for free, but this woman I used to work with at a craft shop got some the same way you did. Guess I need to find an old house being remodeled. The way you used them is very creative and pretty. I like the ferns on top. Thanks for stopping by my blog today

    • AthenaMG says:

      Hi Shannon: Thank you for visiting the blog today. True, we were lucky, but you might try making them yourself. It’s not hard–I have some tips in the post to help you get started.

  15. What a great project Athena… and a big project too! The bright blue is so sassy and fun!
    Please join my weekly linky party TUTORIALS TIPS AND TIDBITS going on now!

  16. Sherry says:

    Looks lovely! Thank you for joining me at Home Sweet Home!

  17. This is FABULOUS!!! Glad you stopped by earlier! XO, Aimee

  18. Donna Heber says:

    What a neat idea Athena! I don’t think I would have thought of this. The ferns look great and I don’t see why your husband doesn’t feed you grapes while you lay in a chaise lounge :-)

  19. Thanks for visiting my blog. I enjoy gardening and landscaping too. Those columns are super and I would have picked them up as well. I love what you did with them and the Dollar Tree glass pebbles were a nice touch to complete the look of that area. Thanks for sharing. I hope I come across some curbside columns now! :-) John

    • AthenaMG says:

      Hi John: Thank you so much for stopping by–I appreciate it! I do have some information about making your own columns at the bottom of the post, or you can check out local rebuilding sources or yard sales and antiques stores for possible columns for use in the garden.

  20. mary says:

    free columns– wow that is so fun!! What a great idea using them as you did!! Love the fun color too!

  21. Andrea says:

    Thanks Athena for visiting my site i was lead here. Doric or Ionic columns in the garden, amazing. Many houses here of OFW working in Italy adopt houses like what they see there, so lots of them looks like the inspired-ruins of the Roman empire. Maybe i will wait for these houses to be demolished and i will get the columns, LOL.

  22. Beth says:

    Your pillars are so cool, Athena! I love them!

  23. Millie says:

    Athena in Pompei…very cute!..and so are the the color.

    • AthenaMG says:

      Yeah, Athena is Greek, but I guess she could make her way to Roman Pompei and enjoy live there! Thank you for stopping by, Millie!

  24. I had to write a post about the column I rescued after reading your post! I put a link to this post as my inspiration! You did a LOVELY job!!!

  25. Athena, your energy amazes me. All those link ups! Thanks for leaving that comment about the roses getting blackspot, losing their ugly leaves, and re-leafing with good foliage later. You have given me hope. But I’d still like to have all roses that are resistant, since some seem to be.

    You inspire me!

    • AthenaMG says:

      Sara–You so made my night–thank you for you kind words. I did do a lot of link ups this week–most I’ve ever done before, but it was fun!

  26. Bunny Jean says:

    Hi Athena!

    These sure add to the garden, love that blue! The way you made the planters at the top is really clever too.

    Thanks for sharing at my party this week!

    xoxo Bunny Jean

  27. What a great idea! Thank you for sharing this at my Make it Pretty Monday party at The Dedicated House. Hope to see your prettiness again on Monday. Toodles, Kathryn @TheDedicatedHouse

  28. fantastic addition to the garden…what a treat this must be to see in the garden. Thank you for linking up to this weeks garden party here at Fishtail Cottage…love visiting all of the links from this week! xoxo, tracie

  29. Ashley says:

    I love what you did with these! So glad to see architectural salvage find a good home.

  30. Love what you did with the columns and a great how to. Isn’t fun when you get to use a trash pick! It would have been a shame if those had been cut up for firewood, glad you saved them, Laura

    • AthenaMG says:

      I am glad you liked the columns, Laura–they were a big project, and I am now ready for some easier ones! I am always glad when we can find good uses for recycled and salvaged materials, too.

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  32. How fun is that! I love the look. You did a great job and shared a wonderful tutorial! Thank you for sharing at TTF last week! I hope to see you join us again!

  33. jody says:

    Thanks so much for sharing this fantastic tutorial on Simple & Sweet Fridays.
    Love it!


  34. What a project! That blue is magnificent. Thank you so much for linking up to our party!! :)

  35. Great inspiration and your version is gorgeous! Love that bold color with the ferns! I want to wear a toga now too!

    So glad you joined our Color party!

  36. What a fun and colorful planter idea!

    Thank you so much for sharing at our Crazy for Color link party!



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