Eudora Welty wrote in her short story “Livvie” about a line of bare crape-myrtle trees covered in colored bottles. Bottle trees, like Eudora Welty stories, are a Southern thing. As a child, driving to Georgetown, Mississippi, to see my grandparents was exciting because along the way we passed the “spirit house” where all of the dead trees were covered with cobalt blue Milk of Magnesia bottles. Another house along the route had hundreds of glass telephone pole insulators on its tree limbs. It used to be you mostly saw bottle trees along Southern back roads, but now they are popular on Southern porches and as yard art in even the most elite gardens. I’ve taken up the practice of displaying a bottle tree in my yard. Mine is made of rebar by The Bottle Tree Man of Greenwood who also makes the miniature “shrub” in the photo above. I’ve seen them made out of everything from a tree stump to an old Christmas tree form (also shown above on a porch in Canton). Some people stick to a single bottle color – like green or cobalt blue – but I mix cool vintage bottles of any color. They say the evil spirits are attracted to the mesmerizing dancing colors in the sun and are drawn into the bottles only to be trapped for all eternity. My favorite Mississippi gardener Felder Rushing has an awesome website full of bottle tree images and more on their history. Check out Felder’s website and then make your own! If not for catching evil spirits, then for the beauty of the color in your garden.
Felder Rushing’s website:
Order a Bottle Tree or Bottle Bush from Greenwood, MS at Dudley Pleasant’s website: