Every winter I take on a project or two I can make in my basement. I’ve seen these beautiful poles often online – many on Pinterest. I found these on Etsy for sale. They were along the lines of what I wanted. They range in price from $310 for the tallest to $170 for the shortest.
I like them because they can add a good amount of color to the garden year round and without taking up too much ground space. I haven’t seen too many in gardens I’ve visited (and I’ve visited a lot of gardens!). They’re called garden totems or I’ve seen them called art poles. I’ve seen versions with words of peace and harmony written on them called peace poles.
Of course, I wanted to make my own.
By making my own, I knew I’d save money and be able to customize them with my own colors and patterns. I did buy four pressure-treated 4″x4″s – I had two on hand already. Ultimately, I spent about $200 for everything for the six poles together.
I also wanted to add more dimension to them – by routing into them (I have a barely-used router!) and adding wood ornaments and flourishes. Those I purchased, as well as the finial tops.
The one thing I did not do was buy paint. All the paints used were paints I have on hand from other projects inside and outside the house. A benefit of using paints on hand is that I know the colors are used elsewhere in the garden, from the shed to benches, to house colors. Most were exterior paints, but I have to admit there’s a few interior paints used as well. I’ll have to see how they hold up outdoors. I don’t mind the poles eventually getting a well-worn patina.
They took about three weekends of work.
It was a lot of painting. It was two coats of primer and then two coats each of the base colors. And then there was all the detail painting – going back and forth with colors. All those textures and patterns took time. The patterns at the bottom of each were graphic (checkered, dots, diamonds, stripes and harlequin patterns) and needed to be measured, marked, and painted. Toward the tops of the poles there are patterns that I free-handed to look more “organic” (splotches, vines, green leopard spots, and more).
Then there was the gluing, nailing, and paining of the extra ornaments. I still see some spots that need touch ups. But I have the rest of winter to get to them.
I made a total of six totems. I’m thinking I’ll put three in the front yard garden, and have three for the back yard. All six would be a lot in one spot. Setting them up in odd numbers makes visual sense to me.
I intend to drill holes in the bottom of each and insert steel rebar that would stick out a good amount. It’s the rebar that would get pushed into the ground. I’ll probably add glue to the totem hole with the rebar. For the front yard, I may consider adding a bit of concrete mix when “planting” the rebar in the ground. I’m always nervous about theft or damage. To date, I’ve never put anything in my front yard before – no fountains, no art – nothing that can be carried away or vandalized. I learned my lesson. I once put some solar lights out there and they were gone in a week.
Here’s the garden totem project in process
Here are some past DIY projects I’ve made
Most winters I do a basement garden art project. Here are some of my past projects:
- DIY garden bench, window boxes and shutters for the garden shed
- My four DIY fountains
- Garden variety Louise Nevelson sculpture
- My marble and granite area rug…
- My vertical hardy succulent frame from scratch
- My ever-raining rain chain
- My homemade copper coral bell fountain
- My DIY concrete outdoor countertops
- Art for the birds
- A potting table for the potting shed
- Hearty art for the garden
- DIY Campy bat & bird houses
- A home-made hanging light of vines
- Spring DIY project Before & After
- It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas