Planting Tips for Your Bottle Tree
I wanted to share a few hints on how to better place your tree.
These are my general guidelines. You will be emailed specific tips for
the design you chose. If you have any questions…Please call me.
First…you want to use the same thought processes you would use if
you were planting a real tree. Some of my designs are not easily moved, so
choose your location carefully. And make sure the tree’s “best side” is
facing the direction you will be admiring it from.
You may also find these tips online at
I will email you
specific tips for the tree you purchase, but this gives you a
general idea of some of my pointers:
Before planting your tree...know what’s
underground. Remember, you are sticking an steel rod into
the ground! Call Digger’s
Hotline! Dial 811.
The tree may be in a kinda collapsed state, and may need to be
unwrapped. There may be pieces of twine or tape you will need to
cut. Cut the bindings carefully because the branch might snap-to-
shape once unbound.
If you need to do a little shaping to the tree, do not start
bending the steel if the temperature is below 50 degrees.
Cold steel is brittle and you risk breaking a branch or weld.
Let it rest in the Sun for a couple hours before planting.
This will warm-up the metal and make your bending much easier
Some tree designs require shipping them with some of the
branches not yet shaped. Not
all trees need any special tools to setup, but if
your tree’s design requires it, I have included a piece of pipe to
make the bending of the branches or flowers of the tree a little
easier…but a little strength will be needed.
The flowers and the
branches should be bent to about a 45 degree angle to the main
branch of the bottle tree. Place the pipe over the branch to be
bent…but not completely.
Place the end of the pipe back about three inches from where
the branch joins the main branch.
If the pipe is placed too close to the welds, which attaches
that branch to the main branch, you may damage or break the weld
when you attempt to bend the branch.
Do your bending very slowly…and wear gloves!
No cement base is needed.
a rare tree design which would require a cement base for stability.
My designs maintain stability commensurate with the size,
height, and the number of bottles it will support.
This is one important thing I have learned in my years as a
gardener. Every tree has a
face. You want to have
your best face aimed at the location from which you will be enjoying
Choose your location well! The longer your tree has been there…the
harder it is going to be to get back out of the ground! Once you
have decided where to place the tree, sometimes it is easier make a
starter hole for the trunk of the tree. I use a heavy ½ inch
diameter steel stake. A long ½ or ¾ inch wooden dowel will also
work. I use a mallet to pound
my steel stake into the ground as far as needed to make a nice hole
for the tree.
works well for some trees, is to use a piece of ½ or ¾ inch
diameter metal electrical conduit, cut to about a 24-inch length.
Pound that piece of conduit pipe into the ground
(straight…not crooked), and then easily slide the tree trunk into
the pipe. Whether you plant your tree directly into the ground, or
into a pipe, which is in the ground…STABILITY is your main concern.
Do not use anything to “pound” your tree into
the ground! Do not step on
the tree to plant it! If the
ground is too hard to easily plant your tree...use a garden hose to
dampen the location...then plant.
Once planted, the tree may need to be “opened
up” and shaped to your liking. Do your bending slowly! You
will want to shape the branches so none of the bottles or branches
will hit one another. Keep in
mind the weight of snow and ice, which may accumulate on the
bottles. Birds will also land
on your tree. And don’t
forget the breezes which may sway the branches.
You may bend the branches out to shape, as
much as you like, but do remember to do your bending slowly. One
concern is to make sure no rain water will accumulate inside the
bottles. I like most of my designs in a more compact shape, but do
whatever you desire. Sometimes, when you open up the branches, you
get a blooming look, which is also nice.
your bottles on the branches...If you let them slide on, they
Once planted, check for straightness.
If it is not, it will look funny. Check for straightness
again after placing your bottles on your tree.
If you need to relocate your tree, remove the
bottles first! Trust me…picking up broken glass from the garden is
no fun! And besides…you may be releasing spirits from the broken
Hope you enjoy my Bottle Tree!
And please send me a picture of your tree when you have found a home for it.
Jerry Swanson firstname.lastname@example.org
Bottle Tree Creations www.bottletreecreations.com
W5431 Oxbow Trail Voice: 920-295-3488
Princeton, WI 54968 Cell: 920-229-2390
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The Bottle Tree Story
The roots of the Bottle Tree are in the middle of 9th century
In Africa, the Congo Tree Altar is a tradition of honoring
deceased relatives with graveside memorials. The grieving family would
surround the grave with plates. The plates might be leaning against
something, attached to sticks, or hung from nearby trees by string. The
plates were thought to resemble mushrooms, calling on an old Congo pun:
“matondo”/”tondo”...the Congo word for “mushroom” is similar to their word
Of course, the traditions followed the people, and during the
slave trade, the people found themselves in the southern United States. Over
time, traditions changed as the stories were passed from generation to
In one variation of the belief, bottles were hung from trees by
strings, in hopes that any devilish spirits lurking near the house would be
attracted to the colorful bottles shining in the dusk. The bottles were tied
to both ends of a string and were thrown over a tree branch. Sometimes the
insides of the bottle necks were greased with animal fat, to make the
spirit's entry easier and the exit harder.
The Bottle Trees were sometimes placed near the entrance to the
house, so the spirits did not enter the house with you. The spirits would
become mesmerized by the play of the sunlight through the colors of the
glass, and become trapped inside the bottles. The bottles were periodically
corked and thrown into the river to wash away the unwanted spirits. In
another variation of this theme, the spirits are also trapped in the
bottles, but are said to be destroyed when the sun comes out the next
Sometimes the bottles, made then of hand-blown glass, were hung
by strings, but usually they were put on the tips of a tree. Cedar trees
were most-often used...their up-turned branches pointed heaven-ward and were
just right for the placement of the bottles.
Although bottles of many colors were used, blue was thought to
be an especially potent spirit repellant. Blue was also thought to protect
the home from an illness that might have been spreading through the area.
This is why you can still find homes in the south with blue-painted doors
and window frames. It was thought blue, the color of sky and water, has the
power to repel or overcome evil. Blue is also the color of dreams,
spirituality, of distance, and the heavenly realm. Whatever color bottle
was used, it was the bright colors of the bottle trees which were used to
attract and trap the spirits.
Some who believed the tradition, also used the bottle trees to
attract and trap ancestral spirits, who were just as feared as the overtly
evil ones. This was due to the age-old belief that familial ghosts might
return to their living families and take the living back to the land of the
"When a soft wind blows, you can hear the moans
of the trapped spirits whistling on the breeze.
The way the spirits get free is if a bottle breaks,
so take care around the Bottle Tree!"