Sculpted concrete columns are the highlight of our pergola

Green Bay, WI

I would like to share photos of our spring project...a hexagonal pergola with sculpted concrete columns. My first attempt at concrete sculpture was an ambitious one, but I was pleased with the results. Click on the link below to see a photo gallery of the project.

Thumbnail by Chucklette
Ripon, WI(Zone 4a)

WOW - that is fantastic! Thanks for sharing your progress pictures too. Exactly how long did it take you? Were the sculptures carved into the columns or added on later? It is beautiful!

Portland, OR(Zone 8b)

Chucklette....your pergola is the most beautiful and unusual , that I have ever seen. Thank you so much for all those picts of your construction journey!!!!!

Phoenix, AZ


Ulster Park, NY

Chucklette, finally have time to really look at your fabulous gazebo!

I have many questions, first, how did you pour??
Did you get a cement pump?
After a harrowing experience with one of those, I'd guess not,
but then what? Did you use ladders, scaffold, hand-mixed in a wheelbarrow?
That's what, a yard and a half? A lot.

Did you use rebar in the sonotubes?

"Below frost" where you are is 4'? Or more?
Good thing you could use a power auger.

What coloring did you use, edges look too sharp for stain.

Your color choices!
Your "nondenominational" design!
Nothing "cute" or stale or hackneyed.
A little temple unto itself.

But I can't see you in the hammocks :o)
After five minutes you'd have another idea

Have you made other concrete stuff?

I am totally inspired and very timely too, I want to turn my
conventional rose arbor into something completely different,
maybe embed it in concrete pillars and other shapes, leaving
the original structure showing through, as if overgrown with,
(or being swallowed by) tropical dreams.

Thank you for showing us!!

Ulster Park, NY

Oops, just reread your post, your FIRST!
Are you kidding, how wonderful!
I wish you lived closer!

Green Bay, WI

Thanks for the positive feedback! The project took a little over 3 months (not including design time). The low-relief sculptures of birds, lizards, frogs and flowers were added on rather than carved (there are about 20 of them). We made the columns by mixing bags of quikcrete by hand in a wheelbarrow and pouring them by the bucketful from a ladder. (We're getting too old for this!) So many bags of various concrete mixes went into the project that I've lost count, but it was a lot! We did use rebar, and went 4' down for the footings. The coloring is acid stain. I also achieved some tonal variation by using different mixes of white and grey portland cement, either in the initial construction or as a slurry.

I had to laugh at the comment about being in the hammock only 5's totally true. Since this first project, I've made lots of cast leaves and other things, and really enjoy the unlimited possibilities for creativity with concrete. Though all through this project I kept wishing I had someone with me to tell me what to do next and how to do it. My advice is to be brave! Glad I was able to inspire!

Mesa, AZ(Zone 9b)

Those are so cool! The reliefs are fantastic, great job!

Mukwonago, WI

really love it!!!! the whole thing, from the pillars to the stone work and plants!!
and the hammocks looks so inviting. I had one, never stayed long in it, but came up with so many great ideas while resting in it. sometimes when I needed a new idea or a fix-it idea, would just have a short lie down in that hammock.

Charlevoix, MI(Zone 4b)

I absolutely love it and would love you to come on over and put one in my backyard!! :)

Gilroy (Sunset Z14), CA(Zone 9a)

Wow---very impressive!

Deer Park, IL(Zone 5b)

Wow, completely had my jaw drop open! I am too easily distracted to take on such a big project but wish I had half your talent and ambition. Amazing. How did you get the bases of each column rounded and to look in proportion with the other bases? Is there a trick to that or just trial and error and eye balling?

I can't wait to see your next project!


Frankfort, KY(Zone 6a)

A super project and the gloves tell it all.
Yes we all are getting too old for that type of work. ^_^

Columbia, MO(Zone 5b)

That is AMAZING! Thank you for posting the step-by-step of the creative process. You have made it such a beautiful focal point and the detail is wonderful.

Phoenix, AZ

very Inspiring! You should be really, very proud. Wonderful!

(Laura) Olympia, WA(Zone 8a)

What did you use to make them?

PERTH, Australia

That is amazing and even more so as it was your first project. How's it looking now?

Christiansted, VI(Zone 11)

So wonderful, except for the hammocks!

Hammocks like those kill people, no joke. Someone tries to get out, or a child playing, and somehow they flip over, with the body inside, and the head outside, and the person is strangled to death.

A hammock should have a spreader bar on the head end.

Green Bay, WI

Here's an update of the pergola. The grapes were planted in 2008, and this year have completely covered the structure. The shade is great when you're in the hammocks! I much prefer the hammocks without the spreaderbars--they are far more comfortable. Last weekend we participated in a garden walk, with 1100 or so people touring our garden. The pergola was a big hit--the highlight of the garden!

Thumbnail by Chucklette
Green Bay, WI

Looks like we'll have to learn to make wine!

Thumbnail by Chucklette
Mukwonago, WI

WOW!!! and I thought it looked good before the grapes!!!

I hear ya on the hammock, I prefer the ones without the spreader bars too.

you are the concrete goddess!!! everything you've done is awesome!! this, the chair, the planter.......anything else coming up?

Naperville, IL(Zone 5b)

WOW! WOW! WOW! Absolutely fabulous pergola, Chucklette! This is an incredible, functional piece of concrete garden art...belongs in a beautiful gardening magazine. Looks wonderful both before and after the growth of the grapevines.

"The low-relief sculptures of birds, lizards, frogs and flowers were added on rather than carved (there are about 20 of them)." -- Very, very cool! I'd love to hear more about how you sculpted those, Chucklette. Do you recall what mix you used for them? Did you just shape them by hand and then use tools to carve more definition? Lovely!

WOW again!


Ventress, LA(Zone 8b)

This is remarkable. I loved all the plants in the garden and wish I had names of many of them. After the snow melts do you replant again? What comes back in your area.
I would like to try my hand at the portland leaf you made. Did you use wire as the base? How did you color the veins brown?

Dallas, OR

Stunning!!! Just stunning! I hope you answer evanovak. I can't wait to hear what you did.


Well by jingles there should be at least a DG Blue Ribbon for this outstanding project. It's about time to have a party and break the newness down to well used. LOL

Green Bay, WI

Regarding the low-relief sculptures: with a reference photo in hand, I sketch a rough outline in pencil. Then I paint on a slurry (portland cement and dilute acrylic fortifier mix) to ensure good adhesion. I pat on concrete as needed to create the form of the critter, shaping with my hands. The concrete is a portland and sand mix (1:2), wetted with dilute acrylic fortifier (about a 20-25% solution). I use sharpened dowels to do finer detailing as needed. You can add a little plasticizer (just a pinch-not too much) to the concrete to make it more user-friendly, especially if it starts to firm up a bit before you're finished.

I've used this technique to add critters to the foundation wall of my house as well. The possibilities are endless!

Regarding the cast leaves: the larger ones require a support--I've used hardward cloth as well as the plastic mesh that's used for concrete countertops. I color my leaves with acid stain, and it naturally collects in the lower vein areas in the leaves. This works to emphasize the veins. I also will drip a darker color stain carefully into the veins and turn the leaf to get it to flow throughout the vein.

I like to use 50% Quickwall for my leaves, it makes a nice strong leaf. I use the Quickwall that's made with white portland. The whiter concrete makes the acid stain results brighter, since they are translucent.


Chucklette...........has raised the bar. Save this information for your future reference. There is no doubt in my mind about strength and beautifull finishes with highlights and lines appearing natural. This is super nice work with the steps to follow nicely presented.

Naperville, IL(Zone 5b)

Hi, Everyone ~

Chucklette, thank you so much for taking the time to give more details on how you create your marvelous low-relief sculptures. "I've used this technique to add critters to the foundation wall of my house as well." -- That is SO cool! Your house and gardens have got to be so enchanting and eye-catching to anyone passing by or visiting.

All of us on the forum are in awe of your artistry with concrete. We appreciate your sharing here.


Dallas, OR

Yes! Thank you, Chucklette! Eva, will you post pictures of your work for us to see as well?

Ventress, LA(Zone 8b)

Yes, Chucklette. I would like to make some pedesals for my plants and feel your ideas will help.
Wish I had to whole week "to just play".

Orofino, ID(Zone 6a)

Chucklette, That pergola is just fabulous!!!! You have a wonderful gift.....Deb


Quote from Chucklette :
I would like to share photos of our spring project...a hexagonal pergola with sculpted concrete columns. My first attempt at concrete sculpture was an ambitious one, but I was pleased with the results. Click on the link below to see a photo gallery of the project.

That has to be the best pagola I have ever seen. So much work, but a fantastic outcome, and particularly being your first attempt. You realise you can never sell your house now! You can't leave that behind!

Ventress, LA(Zone 8b)

Chucklette, have you made any of the face pots. I would love to make some, but feel I must have a mold.

Anyone else tried it???

Palm Bay, FL(Zone 9b)

Incredible, Chucklette!

Your first concrete sculpture project maybe - but I can't imagine you don't have any previous construction experience. Your pergola is outstanding!

Buffalo, MN(Zone 4a)


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