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How to Make Bottle Trees

Plus Some Curious Southern Lore

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Wondering how to make bottle trees? They're relatively easy to make, although building a forest of them such as that shown in the picture will take some time....
Picture: bottle trees at Elmer's Place, along Route 66 in Helendale, California.

Picture: bottle trees at Elmer's Place, along Route 66 in Helendale, California.

David Beaulieu

In referring to bottle trees here, note that I am talking about a type of garden art, not about "bottlebrush" trees (Callistemon rigidus).

There's all sorts of Southern lore as to how bottle trees originally came to be created, the gist of it being that evil spirits roaming the countryside at night were thought to become ensnared in the bottles; the morning sun then fried them in their glass prisons. But from a purely artistic standpoint, the concept behind making them is relatively straightforward. Basically, you need to come up with:

  1. a "trunk" (and a way to stabilize it)
  2. "branches" (and a way to secure them to the trunk)
  3. the bottles themselves, which will serve as the "leaves" after you slip them over the branches

It's possible to build very simple bottle trees or very elaborate ones. On the simple end of the spectrum, here are a couple of ideas:

  1. Bury a post in the ground and drive spikes into it for the branches

    or

  2. Import a small dead tree to the site. If it has a nice branching pattern, you won't even have to worry about finding artificial branches and securing them.

To stabilize the trunks of bottle trees, folks typically dig a hole, place the bottom of the trunk in, and pour concrete.

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