Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Bottle bush, bottle tree: Southern yard art with glass

Across the South, a form of yard art exists that can be simple or intricate, puzzling or straightforward. The bottle bush or bottle tree combines empty bottles and metal spikes to create colorful sculptures that can enhance a yard and start many conversations. Don't confuse this delight with a bottle brush plant, an actual botanical entity whose flowers resemble it's namesake.

While the roots of the art form are open to debate, the artists are content to simply enjoy. Author Felder Rushing has tracked down many of the explanations for bottle trees and recounts them in his book “Bottle trees…and other whimsical glass art for the garden.” He discusses the European and African stories behind the sculptures.

Jan Breaux, co-owner of GardenSpot Nursery at 770 Robert Boulevard in Slidell, Louisiana, reminds patrons that the bottles are believed to capture evil spirits and prevent them from entering the home. Her shop features a giant bottle tree as installation art, along with smaller versions that can be put in flower pots or the ground. Her staff can customize bottle trees according to the purchasers design.

A bottle tree can be a way of salvaging the dead trunk and branches of a tree. The addition of metal spikes can help to fill in any gaps. Others consist of rebar welded into intricate graceful shapes and adorned with colorful bottles. Some resemble trees, some look like beautiful bushes, while some appear as part of gateways or other parts of the landscape plan.

The gardener need not empty the bottles himself; Breaux and other vendors sell colorful bottles to meet the designer’ s needs. Other gardeners may use the bottle tree as a way of collecting bottles from memorable events. Some go with a monochromatic theme while others preferred the eclectic look of whatever bottles they have on hand.

Bottle trees save a large number of bottles from landfills and dumps while creating an artistic statement that can provide amazement, laughter and delight from the imaginative use of discarded glass. Whether you have one, want one or simply enjoy the beauty of colored glass, bottle trees are worth considering as a unique art form.

Originally published 6/20/13 at

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