An exercise in Occam’s Razor (the K.I.S.S. approach)
Bottle trees, beyond their being folksy “make-do” garden ornaments, are a proud form of recycling. I’ve met hundreds of folks who openly confess they are “saving bottles” for a notional future state of nirvana they hope to reach when they’ll feel daring enough to actually put a bottle tree in their garden. Where used bottles belong.
In these weird times, bottle trees strike a chord for being a simple, refreshing, liberating aspect of life where there are no rules at all about getting it right or wrong. Unlike same old, same old pink flamingoes, no two bottle trees look exactly alike, not even those made of standard welded frames bedecked with your personal choice and placement of bottles. So, without a standard to go by, you actually can’t mess up.
Glass “bottle trees” have been around for centuries, first as icons of superstitious beliefs based on a three-thousand year old Arabian folk tale, and now increasingly as eccentric but popular home-made glass garden ornaments. I know these folksy sculptures aren’t every one’s cup of tea, but there are thousands of them scattered across gardens of a surprising assortment of people; I’ve photographed them in modest home gardens to upscale botanical gardens and art museums, rarely with any two being exactly alike – the only things the widely diverse gardeners who create or display them have in common are glass bottles held up where the sunshine can radiate through them.
Some wet blankets sniff that these folksy paeans to stained glass are forgettable sights, which to me means they just don’t get it, and that’s okay – I mean, not everyone hangs glittery stuff from holes in their ears, either, right?
Though Eudora Welty photographed a bottle tree in the 1930s, the first authentic glass bottle tree I can recall was beside a tenant shack on a dusty road dead center in the Mississippi Delta. I was maybe fifteen, yet to this day the inexplicable spectacle haunts my sense of the absurd.
…but, in a “stuck here in the middle with you” scenario, halfway between our Northern friends’ undulating mounds of snow, and the non-stop tropical flowers of SoCal and Florida, we have stuff to keep our pineal glands puffed up, staving off Seasonal Affective Disorder.
This week it dropped from the low 70s to 9, which kicked hard on plants that which are normally hardy but had lost their cold conditioning.
So the day the sleet and snow started falling I went around my garden and neighborhood and collected a few flowers that flower naturally in January and February, capturing them in the still-life of a vase.
My old truck with the garden in the back has been driven to countless flower shows and events across the eastern half of the US. It has been featured in magazines, online sites, garden books, and on NPR programs. It still drives fine, and the garden still flourishes through heat and cold, year in and year out, with only twice-a-year replacement of a handful of seasonal annuals.
The antique truck is better known than I am. Over the thirty or so years I’ve had it, it has been through many makeovers. Its current, cheery form has been preserved on film – as a result, people often call out a greeting while I’m driving through Jackson.
Ever see an old guy jump with joy and click his heels in the air?
Exactly what I did when I first walked into the HUUUUUGE tent – over ten times bigger than my entire home property – that housed the astounding floral exhibits for the 2018 Royal Horticulture Society’s flower show held on the grounds of the majestic Chatsworth estate in the Peak District of north central England.
First thing I and all the other visitors saw was a pair of bottle trees adorning a major display, right under the big marquee. Not by a long shot the first of the many popular glass garden sculptures found at every RHS flower show, but the first authentic, home-made bottle trees. Ever. Continue reading “Bottle Trees on the Big Stage”
For some ten years or so, a strange and beautiful thing happened between two men who had practically nothing in common other than a love in growing and joy in sharing simple garden plants.
This is saying a lot, but “Dirt” was without a doubt one of the most overflowing humans I have ever encountered. Bigger-than-life he was – tall, colorful, thoughtful, bawdy, humorous, and, yes, easily outraged and loudly opinionated (usually spot-on).
First met him by accident, while cruising backstreets of small-towns looking for interesting cottage gardens and the pass-along plants usually found in them – one of the best ways to uncover hardy, garden-variety plants.
His unmissable garden, nestled beside a railroad crossing in a small town in rural Mississippi, stopped me in my tracks. The outstanding “total yard show” was overstuffed and overflowing with kaleidoscopic combinations of plants and home-made yard art made from found objects. Its care-taker – a tall, lanky man with a do-rag on his head and a Kaiser blade in hand – met me at the gate. He wouldn’t invite me in, much less tell me his name, instructing me to just call him Dirt.
Most folks think their neighborhood is a special place to live, but I give my little town-within-a city extra points for how it has dealt with falling between the potholed cracks when tastemakers passed through.
Not braggin’, just sayin’.
We’re certainly not better than others, it just doesn’t matter. While we have our share of VIPs and upmarket homes, some of our areas are not as well-heeled or as “precious” as nearby other communities; still, we feel loosely akin, wary lifeboat passengers from different decks of a foundering ship, doing our best to pull together.