Bottle Trees: The Poor Man’s Stained Glass

Love this book…it’s one of my favs. I look through it time and time again.

Inside, I found this. Know what it is?


(Image from Southern Style by Mark Mayfield)

It’s a bottle tree!  Most often you see them in gardens, although this one looks pretty awesome on this veranda.

Bottle trees go way, way, way back. Some folks think the first bottle trees were created in Africa in the 9th Century A.D. Others believe their origin goes back much further…all the way to ancient cultures.

Why a bottle tree? Apparently, it was believed you could capture any roaming, up-to-no-good spirits if they were out roaming around at night. Superstition has it, they would be lured into the bottles where the morning light would destroy them. There must have been a real problem with bad spirits back in the day.

See some wonderful old homes with haint blue ceilings in this post: Paint Your POrch Ceiling, Haint Blue.

Bottle trees are often decorated with lots of different colored bottles, but a favorite color to use are blue bottles. Bottle trees were sometimes called the “poor man’s stained glass” or “garden earrings.” They add whimsy to the garden and look really pretty when the sun shines through the bottles.

Bottle trees can be made by using an old tree branch and sticking the bottles onto the branches. Another way is to take a center rod or tree trunk and attach nails or rods.

Do you have a bottle tree in your garden?


(Image from Southern Living)

Update: I finally added a bottle tree to my deck. You can view it in this post: Bottle Tree Dreams

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Comments

  1. I have never seen a bottle tree before! How unique.

    That book looks great too. I have an old issue of a magazine called Southern Accents that I bought on my first trip the the US years ago and I still love reading it…the Southern style is so timeless and very elegant indeed.

    Best wishes,
    Natasha.

  2. vignette design says

    I have that book also and love looking though it time and time again. Love the info about the bottle trees.

  3. Hi Susan, that sounds a great idea with the bottle tree in the garden, we have a tree trunk we might try that with, will have to find a few bottles first!! I love the pawnbrokers balls in the first picture! Couldn't have those in my bungalow, have low'ish ceilings and a 6 ft husband! Jackie in UK

  4. PS I love the Easter header, Jackie in UK

  5. Dear Susan,

    what an amazing report about the bottle-trees. I have not known this before. I knew this bottle-trees from the wineries, they use this type to dry the washed bottles there. But the ones in your link looks different. A lot of them look like magic garden ornaments but some are really art like the cathedral window. Thank you for this interesting post – I also have one of these mercury glass balls in my garden, hopefully it will keep the blues out of my region.

    Lovely greetings from Johanna

  6. I thought they were racks for drying wine bottles after use and before refilling. A small one is in the garden at Linderhof — filled with used wine bottles.

    Didn't know about the other story for them.

    The trees from the sight are awesome!

  7. ♥ Sonny ♥ says

    I knew what those were. There are many places in NC that you'll see them in folk's yards. Mt. Airy, Showls. Silva and Trap Hill are places I can think of..I figure that folklore has lasted a long time for a reason.
    Thanks for the great photos.

    Sonny

  8. Wow! It's so wild that you posted this about bottle trees today. I was just at Shangri La gardens (which has pictures in the link you provided) yesterday and was amazed by their wonderful bottle trees! And now here you are posting about them and I find them pictured. Pretty Neat! I'd love to have one, but since I live in hurricane country, I have decided against it…too much work to take all those bottles down if a 'cane is coming!

  9. I Love Pretty Little Things says

    I have never heard of bottle trees before. They are really fun, except the evil spirit part…anyway, very pretty for a porch or garden!

  10. Allie and Pattie says

    How fascinating! I'm thinking this may be a project for a little corner of our garden…
    xoxo Pattie

  11. Susan, After seeing the glorious bottle tree in the first photo and looking at the link…. I may just have to rethink my thoughts on bottle trees. I always thought they were an "acquired taste" which I hadn't "acquired" yet. Now, I think I'll just have to start saving bottles and look for a "tree" to display them. Hmmmm.. what kind of wine comes in blue bottles?

  12. Susan – that is just gorgeous. I think I may have to make a small one for my garden. Thank you so much for posting this. I am quite excited about creating some eye-candy for the yard. I just love each and every one of your posts. You are amazing! Deb

  13. I love the study of the African influence on the creation of southern gardens and the bottle tree is just one example. I attended a clinic taught by a UGA professor who is an expert on this topic and their are so many habits and adaptations that slaves brought with them and created the earliest of southern gardens as we know them.

    I own a privately published book that was given to me by a dear friend in Athens. Her aging friend has published several books on his observations and studies of the south. One of his features in on one woman (now deceased) and her "artistry." If living she would be 130 or so but the book captures her art that all stems from her African heritage. The book is full of photographs of her quilts, garden and bottle trees. She was an amazing woman and perhaps one day when the publisher/writer decides, he will share his published work with others. His book is my most prized.

    I love your new header and the new look!!! Great spring transformation!

  14. The White Farmhouse says

    How very interesting. I had a totally different image of bottle trees when I saw the title of this post. My grandma used to call these fuzzy, wirey little trees she made bottle trees. I don't know how she made them though.

  15. Mommy of Monkeyshines says

    I loved this link! My absolute fav was the thumbergia and blue bottle tree. Very, very whimsical and pretty!

    Thanks for sharing an idea that until just now, I had no idea existed!

  16. I'd never heard or bottle trees before – they are actually very pretty! I may have to add one to my garden this year. Thanks for sharing this!

  17. Creations By Cindy says

    I saw a bottle tree once driving by someones house. It is different. BTY: Love your Easter Header! Beautiful! Be blessed. Cindy

  18. Enjoyed this post and loved the link to Felder. We definitely have the [wine] bottles to do one with, and I've been threatening for years. Now, I'm inspired!We were just discussing, last night, what to do with all our corks. (maybe cover the walls of our wet bar?) I think I'll pile them around the base of the bottle tree. Love your blog and never miss reading it.

  19. The Tablescaper says

    Didn't know they had a name, let alone several. I think you'd have to have a lot of extra space to have one inside. But the colors are lovely.

    – The Tablescaper

  20. Love Being a Nonny says

    I have never seen a bottle tree before but I LOVE the concept!! Thanks for sharing…off to look at all of them!

  21. marty (A Stroll Thru Life) says

    Amazing. I havn't heard of these before. Interesting and all the pretty colored bottles really do sparkle in the light. Fun idea. Hugs, Marty

  22. Calamity Anne says

    I ♥ bottle trees…so much so, that I've got 3 in my yard. I call it my bottle tree grove. I put the word out to friends and family that I needed their empty bottles, and as a result, I'm quickly filling up the trees. The link below has a photo of my trees (which are much fuller now than in the picture).

    http://www.calamityanne.com/2009/07/bottle-tree-grove.html

  23. Hi Susan, I can only imagine how these glisten in the day light in the garden, fun way to add color. Happy Sunday!! Kathysue

  24. I saw these a few years ago and forgot about them! They are fantastic looking! Thanks for the reminder and inspiration to make myself one for my garden!! Judi

  25. 1 Funky Woman says

    I've seen a lot of bottle trees. I think the one with all the colored bottles is wonderful. I might have to make one for my garden!

  26. a little bit of everything says

    I just saw one of these bottle trees in a catalog, Lillian Vernon perhaps and thought it was a unique idea. Funny that it just popped up on you blog.

  27. Kathy's Red Door Welcome says

    This is my first time seeing a bottle tree. They are very interesting. I love your header by the way. I would like to figure out how to do one like it. Did you use Flicker?

  28. Great post! I always wondered why in Because of Winn Dixie, Cicely Tyson had those bottles hanging from that big old tree. I just thought she was an alchoholic in the movie and 'hung her bottles out to dry'. 🙂 They're cool, aren't they? I like to use old aqua antique insulators in my flower beds as my 'poor woman's stained glass'. I just need to find more of them. Laurie and I were joking around about making a road trip to the Classy Flea. If they do it during the summer, it might be a reality! 🙂 Happy Easter, if I don't make it back over.

  29. HI! SUSAN, THIS IS SO STRANGE THAT YOU MENTION BOTTLE TREES TODAY!! A COUPLE OF DAYS AGO, I WAS TRAVELING WITH MY MOM IN GERMANTOWN, TN, TO SEE HER NEW HOME. WE PASSED A BOTTLE TREE ALL DONE IN GREEN BOTTLES. I HAD NEVER SEEN ONE WITH JUST ONE COLOR ON IT. I SAID, "MAMA, YOU KNOW WHAT THAT BOTTLE TREE IS FOR? TO KEEP THE "HAINTS" AWAY," AND WE LAUGHED. AND THEN, YESTERDAY, WHILE TRAVELING HOME TO GA, WE WERE PASSING THROUGH AL AND LO, AND BEHOLD, ANOTHER BOTTLE TREE WITH ALL SIZES AND COLORS OF BOTTLES. THEY ARE VERY CHARMING TO ME, ADDING A COLORFUL WHIMSY TO LIFE

    I EVEN NOTICED THAT WISTERIA, MY FAVORITE ONLINE STORE, HAS A SOMEWHAT REFINED BOTTLE TREE!! FUN!!

  30. Tales From My Empty Nest says

    I love the bottle trees. Cute idea! Thanks for sharing. Would love to live closer, so I could come to the Classy Flea. Love & blessings from NC!

  31. Our Porch in Hillsborough says

    I love bottle trees and have never seen one indoors. A house that we drive past frequently has an amazing one and I always want to stop and take a picture, but never do. I'm off to check out the pics you link to. Thanks!

  32. Forgot to say: I love the new mosaic header!!!! SOOOO pretty!!!!

  33. I've always been fascinated by bottle trees but never considered one for my own garden. Maybe I will. Hmmmm…. I currently collect rocks from our travels (large enough for my garden). I suppose I could add pretty bottles to that list too. Thanks for posting this.

  34. Hi Susan,
    I love the bottle trees! I have a few bottles (two are blue, one green and one brown) that would make a lovely small bottle tree. I asked hubby about it today and he gave me a strange look. LOL! Our house is traditional colonial but I think it would still look ok in the back yard. Now I will definitely save those bottles!

    Hugs,
    Teacup Lane (Sandy)

  35. Susan, I went to the site you linked to and the pics are amazing although many of those shown are a bit, uh, "extravagant" for my tastes. But I could see a small bottle tree working.

  36. violetlady says

    I have never seen a bottle tree before. What a clever idea to catch the sunlight on those colors. Great blog!

  37. This is a first for me. I have never heard of a bottle tree. Interesting story! The sun shining through would make wonderful patterns!

  38. Low Tide High Style says

    I just saw a huge one of these yesterday while out shopping! I had no idea they were meant to capture the bad spirits! I always thought they were just used to dry old bottles! Thanks for the info!

    Kat 🙂

  39. SouthernGal says

    I love bottle trees! That first one is fabulous!!!

  40. Hi Susan….That's a first for me…a bottle tree. Very unique. Take care and have a great week. Sincerely, Susan

  41. Hi Susan
    I loved this post on bottle trees and had fun visiting the site you mentioned. We had a small one in our yard made of an old bush but the branches broke off so I have to make a stronger one. I think they are so much fun!

  42. Hi Susan. The bottle tree is a fun concept. Thanks for sharing this information. Good luck with the bedroom project. I always enjoy seeing what you are up to. You are one creative lady!

  43. Lisa-Color My World says

    Love bottle trees, and, yes, I do see lots of them here in Mississippi. Loved the link to Felder. He used to have a gardening radio show on every Saturday morning that was great! Good to see him again and his love for all things "gardening"!!

  44. Flat Creek Farm says

    You will definitely have fun with this bottle tree project 🙂 My bottle tree is decorated with vintage soda bottles. I need to add a few more this year. Enjoy! -Tammy

  45. Laura Wallace says

    I CANNOT believe this, there is such a thing a bottle tree history, and even better, you have done the leg work for me. I want a bottle tree, but live in a rent house, so can't really do a tree in the yard. Thanks for pictures and inspiration!! I LOVE IT!!

  46. Susan BetweenNapsOnThePorch says

    Thanks, Laura! I love them, too! You can see the one I put together in this post: http://bit.ly/qgEFFu. I removed the solid red bottles and still need a few more for mine. They add so much whimsy to the garden/patio.

  47. Erin Stevenson says

    hey how much are your bottle trees? please let me know i would like to get my mom one for Christmas this year

    • Erin, I found mine at Ballard Designs Outlet in Atlanta. I’m not sure where you can find them now. Ballard Designs doesn’t have them right now. Google online to see if someone is carrying them now. The one I have have was well over $200 in their catalog but I found it at the outlet for $60.

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