A DIY Totem: A Unique Finishing Touch for Your Garden

Is your garden a little bit on the bland side? Sort of mundane? Just a cookie-cutter replica of a hundred other gardens in your neighborhood?

If so, here’s an idea for decorating your garden that you probably never thought of: totem poles.

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Totem Pole Origins

The term “totem pole,” of course, derives from the tall towers that Native Americans carved and decorated with a variety of colorful characters.

Many tribes throughout North America created totem poles. But the term probably derived from tribes living along the Northwestern Pacific coast. These tribes would often carve totems from towering cedar trees.

The totems served multiple purposes, varying from tribe to tribe. Some totems served as memorials to deceased ancestors. Some totems served as a final resting place for an important tribe member; a coffin would be carved into the very top of the pole. Totems also served as sort of a family crest, symbolically illustrating the proud history of a lineage.

Though it seems very strange from our modern viewpoint, the Canadian government actually banned the erection of totem poles among the Northwest Native Americans. From the late 1800s until 1951 the ceremony that traditionally accompanied the raising of a totem, called a ‘potlatch’ ceremony, was forbidden by law.

But today, the tradition of the totem continues among many native peoples.

Back To Your Garden…

So why would a totem pole have a place in your garden?

Because a totem can transform your garden from the ordinary to the extraordinary. And it can provide a feature that many gardens are lacking: Something with height; some vertical variety.

Since your garden totem will probably be no more than 3 or 4 feet in height, you’ll be able to move it around with ease. So you can use totems to fill in areas of your garden that are temporarily bare or sparse due to the time of the season.

And a totem is certainly a unique decoration. How many totem-decorated gardens have you seen?

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DIY Totems

With just a bit of creativity and craftsmanship, you can make your very own garden totems. Some DIY totems are rather temporary; others will last for years. Here are a few sites that offer instructions for getting you started:

  • Paper Totems. This page shows you how to make totems from corrugated wrapping paper. These totems are temporary, of course. But they can be great décor for a special occasion such as a garden or patio party. Instructions are provided for making both totem poles and totem vases.
  • Glass Totems. Make totems from discarded glass pieces such as dishes and vases.
  • Plastic Totems. Make long-lasting plastic totems by recycling items such as plastic milk and coffee containers.
  • Stone Totems. Make a totem from stacked stones. This one won’t be easy to move around, but it will last for a long time!

A Touch of the Spiritual

For many people, a garden is sort of a spiritual place to spend time. A place of tranquility. A place to escape from the hectic hubbub of everyday life. A totem can help to make your garden even more so.

And in a very unique way.

Author: Bob Carr

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