Thursday, January 12, 2012

The Folklore of Bottle Trees

Every year about this time, when the snow is falling and the cold has descended upon us like a thick blanket, I start to daydream about my garden for the coming summer.  Things I can add, things I tried that didn't go so well, things that will save my back--well, you get the picture.

One thing I definitely want to incorporate somewhere in my yard is a bottle tree.  According to the website for Bottle Tree, a shop in Sunflower, Mississippi, the origins of bottle trees can be traced back to Africa:

"Evidently, it was believed that shiny objects placed around the home would attract evil spirits away from the family. With the tragedy of the slave trade, the tradition found its way to North America and continued to evolve into the hanging of bottles in trees to "trap" the evil spirits."

Bottle tree with sunflower vine
I know that bottle trees are a gardening tradition that is very unique to the South, which makes sense because of the whole slavery thing.  One of my best friends from high school and college has a very Southern mother (Port Arthur, Texas) and there is a bottle tree in the front yard of her home here in Lafayette, Indiana.

Most bottles on bottle trees are blue, according to Felder Rushing, an accomplished Southern horticulturalist, garden writer and PBS radio host, because they scare away "haints"--an early (1843 was the first recorded usage) African-American word that means "spirits that haunt places, or ghosts."  The blue bottle color is referred to as "haint blue", which is a very bright and common house trim paint color in the South and in some Caribbean countries.

Since I don't need any more evil spirits haunting me, the fact that you never need to water or fertilize it, and the fact that they are just plain funky-cute, I might have to give this bottle tree thing a try.

No comments:

Post a Comment