Beauty in a Bottle Tree


And a haint-free garden as a bonus.

by Charlie Thigpen    Photography by Chuck St. John

A Bottletree at Garden Gallery

They are the easiest trees to maintain because you never have to water, prune or fertilize these glistening gems. They can create a focal point or add whimsy to your landscape, and they gift the garden with year-round color. Bottle trees are fun and part of our Southern culture. These gleaming garden ornaments can capture your imagination, or those ornery haints that just might be drifting through your yard.

What the Haint?

According to Southern folklore, haint comes from the word haunt and means ghost or spirit. Belief has it that bright, shinny bottles on the tree attract the haints which fly into them and become trapped. Bottle trees are often positioned close to entrances to stop the evil spirits from entering the home. The spirits come out at night and enter the bottles, and as the morning sun rises, it burns them. So, if you want a haint–free garden you might want to install a bottle tree.

The Trunk and Branches

The first bottle trees were made from live trees that had nice branch structure. Old cedar trees were a favorite. Their straight upright form and staggered, sturdy limbs worked well to support the bottles.

Today many bottle trees are made with metal rebar or rods that have been welded together. They are sturdy and hold up for years. It’s interesting to see the many different ways metal artists construct and shape them. Just like all living trees take on their own shape, every bottle tree tends to be a little different. Some artists create symmetrical, conifer shaped trees while others fashion them more upright with irregular branching like a crepe myrtle. To go along with bottle trees, some artists also make smaller bottle shrubs.

Bottles not Blooms

The brightly colored, sunlit glass brightens a garden making a nice flower substitute. After dark, the glass trees take on a new dimension when up-lit with low voltage outdoor lighting. Collecting bottles with interesting shapes, colors and textures can be a fun experience. Blue bottles seem to be the most coveted. Red bottles are also very desirable but hard to come by. Trees may be filled with a

create your own bottletree. Supplies are available at Garden Gallery in Pepper Place.

single color bottle or mixed depending on preference.

Vines that Twine

Vines can be grown on bottle trees to wrap around their trunk and through the limbs.

Perennial flowering vines such as clematis, red honeysuckle and confederate jasmine work well. Annual or tropical vines such as moonflower, black-eyed Susan vine and Mandevilla will also climb and cover a bottle tree making it look alive.

This spring find a place in your garden to install and enjoy a bottle tree. It will definitely become a conversation piece and give your landscape a unique look. Who cares what the neighbors think. It’s your yard and you should enjoy it. Have fun in the garden.

Charlie Thigpen is a horticulturalist and the owner of Garden Gallery in Pepper Place.

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3 Responses to “Beauty in a Bottle Tree”

  1. Kym R. Brown says:

    BEAUTIFUL!!! Where can I get one of these?? I also saw your pottery in the July issue of Southern Living and would lilke to get several of those. Please advise on how to purchase your products.

  2. I like this idea very much. I think, I will use this on my garden wedding.

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