Your Garden Needs a Bottle Tree!

September 2, 2012 | By | Comments (5)
Bottle Tree

How could anyone not covet this bottle tree? Photo by Steve Bender

Grumpy is enjoying some well-deserved time off at the beach this Labor Day weekend. I can’t say which beach, because that would cause a stampede of crazed fans. Let me just say it’s somewhere on the Florida panhandle.

While I was out walking this morning, I came upon a yard containing the quintessential expression of Southern garden art — a bottle tree. Deep blue bottles, all previously containing precious liquids, sparkled in the sun. (And before you ask — no, I don’t know where they got the blue glass hand.)

A Brief History of Bottle Trees
Bottle trees originated in the South with slaves  who brought their religious beliefs from Africa. They believed that bottles so displayed would trap evil spirits. I suppose any kind or color of bottle would do, but Southerners took a shine to deep cobalt blue. Today, the most prized bottles for bottle trees are glass milk-of-magnesia bottles, because they don’t make them anymore. Buying these at a flea market or antique store can be pricey, so most folks settle for blue wine bottles, like you see here. Works for Grumpy!

Making a Bottle Tree
Once you gather your bottles, the rest is pretty easy. You just need to add a trunk that you can stand up and some stubs to stick the bottles on. A traditional bottle tree employed a dead red cedar trunk. Red cedar works well because the wood doesn’t rot and you can push the bottle necks over stubs of the old branches that naturally point up.

Don’t have a dead cedar? No problemo. You can make the trunk  and branches out of pieces of rebar welded together. Or do like these unpretentious folks did and use a pressure-treated 4″x4″ for the trunk. Easy-peasy.

Mojito Time!
As it’s five o’clock somewhere and Grumpy is at the beach, the cocktail hour beckons. Class dismissed! Enjoy your Labor Day and I’ll see you next week.


  1. Kathy

    I had always wondered about those when I would see them in people’s yards when I was a girl then I was reading a book that mentioned them. I think they are kind of cool and what the hell maybe they do keep evil away so if someone wants it go for it better then just throwing them away

    January 20, 2013 at 6:05 pm
  2. 6 Gardening Tasks for Hubby at Halftime – The Daily South | Your Hub for Southern Culture

    […] Decorate a bottle tree. No example of Southern garden art evokes such universal love and admiration as a bottle tree. […]

    November 4, 2012 at 6:01 am
  3. Dolly Sarrio

    I always wondered where they came from…thanks Grumpy.

    September 3, 2012 at 8:00 am
  4. Tamara

    Those are dead soldiers, worthy of respect. LOL I’m thinking of adding this redneck Christmas Tree to my decorations for the Tour of Homes……..better get busy popping corks. The Woman’s Club is going to love me!

    September 2, 2012 at 4:36 pm
  5. carolyn choi

    Don’t think we believe this story for a minute. I was born in the dark but it wasn’t last night. I know that this must be the famous “Bender ” tree. Yes those bottles contained precious liquids before you and your friends drank them.

    September 2, 2012 at 1:55 pm

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