Recycling … it’s one of the many ways gardeners care for the environment and every once in a while, turns out to be entertainment in itself.
~ Photo of blue bottle tree by Nancy K. Meyers ~
Recycling leads to the occasional surplus of craft materials for the do-it-yourselfer. And … if you’re very lucky … something fun for your garden like blue bottle trees. Bright blue ornaments attract birds and bees and lots of curiosity … and a quick search on the Internet shows blue bottle tree mania is “sprouting up” around the world.
Top row, results of Google search; bottom row blue bottle art by Nancy K. Meyers.
Nancy K. Meyers of Iowa makes blue bottle art from recycled glass she buys for 5¢ each at her neighborhood grocery store. The bases are made from recycled rebar, lighting rods, even surplus curtain rods … the garden hides most of the “stems,” she explains, but the details on the rebar are especially eye catching with lots of texture. Blue bottles can also be placed on trees and shrub limbs, or posts with dowels inserted. Wiring bottles so that they dangle upside-down is another way to use the “fruits” of blue bottle recycling.
Above: blue bottles wired between the gaps in split-rail fence, by Jeanne Sammons.
Photo searches on the Internet also show how adaptable blue bottle trees are to many different climates … and how sturdy they are in cold weather, as long as they have some protection from high winds, and ice does not form inside of them.
More blue bottle trees from a Google search top row; directly above, Sue Gerdes’ blue bottle tree growing in South Dakota, where it reflects the blues of sky and snow.
Kirk Willis shows his blue bottle tree in the snow, below left; Annie Grossart-Stein’s green bottle tree, in the photo below right, filled with fairy lights for enchanted evenings.
Whatever color, shape, or size of your bottle tree, you will find them hardy specimens for flea market gardens that will give years of sparkle, animation, and delight as they reflect sun and moonlight.
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More blue bottle trees from a Google search top row; below left, Sue Gerdes puts her blue bottle collections at a height that makes them look like blue fruit; more blue bottles “sprout” in Nancy K. Meyers’ garden.
How to start a blue bottle tree:
Where to find materials: Blue bottles turn up (when you start looking for them) in thrift shops, flea markets, yard sales, and recycling centers. You can also buy blue bottles with products like beer, wine, or mineral water. Specific manufacturers are Bud Light Platinum Beer, Skyy Vodka, Harvey’s Bristol Cream Sherry, Arizona Tea (salvage only as flavors are sometimes discontinued)—and antique Milk of Magnesia bottles still show up now and again. Nancy K. Meyers, a blue bottle artist, gets hers from a grocery store in Iowa for 5¢ each. Also, restaurants are another great outlet for empty bottles for recycling.
The “tree” part of your project can be anything sturdy and a mostly permanent of a fixture in the landscape. Occasionally, folks will secure the base of a tree with concrete.
Labels: Easy enough to soak and scrape off if they are paper, but if the label is part of the surface of the bottle, it will be baked on and permanent. Luckily many of these are pretty enough for most projects.
Here’s how folks in our Flea Market Gardening community capitalize on inexpensive Bud Light Beer bottles and use the surplus beverage to make bread! (By the way it’s also great for conditioning your hair!)
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