Inspiration for my new bottle tree comes from the desert


When it’s too hot to plant, consider planting a bottle tree. It’ll never need watering, and the more the Death Star shines on it, the better it looks.


I made a simple, post-style bottle tree 5 years ago. But the cedar post was rotting, and it was beginning to list. I decided to replace it, and as I pondered my options I remembered a plant I admired at Big Bend National Park and in Phoenix last spring. Suddenly I knew what I wanted.


An ocotillo bottle tree! Poetic license means its blooms are blue instead of red, but I like the organic, vase-like structure — a nice change from my former stylized tree.


Bob Pool of Draco Metal Works (and a blogger at Gardening at Draco) constructed it to my specifications: upright rebar “branches” welded to a metal base, about 8 feet tall by 6 feet wide, with a base that can be anchored to the ground with rebar stakes. He did a great job bending the rebar to give it an ocotillo’s form.


After setting it up yesterday afternoon in 100-degree heat, I jumped into the pool to cool off and admire it. As often happens while studying the garden while neck-deep in cool water, I decided to rearrange a few things, starting with the yellow motel chairs that used to sit off to the side in the shade. I moved them front and center to create even more of a long-view focal point with the bottle tree.


And I moved my red-orange Circle Pot over by the orange-blooming Mexican honeysuckle for a hot color echo. Hmm, what other art or seating redos can I come up with until it’s cool enough to plant?

All material © 2006-2014 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

48 Responses

  1. Alison says:

    Love the new bottle tree! Draco did a fabulous job on it. Does it have fewer bottles than the previous one? Maybe now you have some spares to use in another part of the garden? You could just set them on simple rebar stakes, like individual flowers. As usual, I am so jealous of Moby, he looks fantastic.

    • Pam/Digging says:

      Yes, I have a dozen or so bottles left over. I’m planning to saw down the old bottle tree, cutting off the rot, and “replanting” it as a shrub elsewhere in the garden.

      Moby is pleased with the attention. He’d blush, but he’s like a supermodel: he expects people to stare. —Pam

  2. Bob (and you) did a great job.
    And, I agree with Alison….Moby is amazing.

  3. Lost Roses says:

    “Studying the garden while neck-deep in cool water” … This made me laugh out loud, and envious! Love the new bottle tree. My own was an inspiration from your blog a long time ago, and if I run across an ocotillo shaped iron form in the future it’s mine!

    • Pam/Digging says:

      I love the idea of bottle trees springing up in every garden — such an easy and pretty way to add a little yard art! I’m going to chop the rotten end off my old bottle tree and replant it as a shrub, so soon I’ll have two. —Pam

  4. Judy B says:

    Looks good. I’ve had a “bottle bush” since I moved in here; the HOA turned down my request for a bottle tree. So mine is rebar in a large terra cotta pot.

  5. I wish we had shop locally that makes these. Yours is perfect in every way.

  6. Tina says:

    Nice!! I need to talk to Bob….

    • Pam/Digging says:

      Bob can make just about anything metal you can dream up, Tina. He’s outfitted so many of the Austin garden bloggers’ gardens with artful pieces. You should call him. —Pam

  7. Margo Kuykendall says:

    I love your bottle tree. I have what I affectionately call ‘bottle weeds’ in my yard. I have pieces of rebar stuck directly in the ground. They are different heights and some are curved. This will have to do until I actually purchase a bottle tree.

  8. TexasDeb says:

    You have some good Texas garden smarts, lady – up to your neck in cool water is about the only way to spend time outside at the moment. It is cooling off, a little, but wet is the only way to go wild these days!

    I’m a bottle tree fan from way back, and your new shape is especially lovely. Bob is such an artist.

    I have a bottle tree “planted” in a bed in opposition to a bottle brush tree and though I usually garner eye rolls when I explain my gardening pun, it puts a smile on my face every time.

    • Pam/Digging says:

      Gardening puns are so much fun. I’m a sucker for them, so I’d adore your bottlebrush tree. Did you see the hens-and-chicks planted in a hen’s roosting box in one of the Portland gardens I posted about? —Pam

  9. Bob Pool says:

    You are a perfect customer Pam. You know what you want, what size, basic shape and give me just enough lee way to make it all come together with the material and techniques at my disposal. Makes my job easy and I always look good when I do work for you. It looks even better than I imagined it would.

  10. Joyce in NM says:

    Very pretty and I love ocotillos so this may be a bottle tree I could like! My ocotillos have red orange blooms so maybe that is the color of bottle I should look for. Your blog is a delight!

    • Pam/Digging says:

      I did a search for red bottles online, Joyce, as I considered switching over to red to be more ocotillo-like. While there are plenty of painted bottles available (with color up to the neck), I couldn’t source any bottles made of red glass. I fear the painted ones would fade. Or maybe not? Sounds like a perfect excuse to experiment! —Pam

  11. Now this is a bottle tree I love. I hate to admit it, but some bottle trees look a little…errr junky. This one fits right in with the garden and looks more sculpture like. I have to remember this one. Thanks for sharing! ~Julie

    • Pam/Digging says:

      Haha! I like all kinds — there must be a bit of Felder Rushing in me. :-) You’re right about it being sculptural, just like real ocotillos. Since those are iffy to grow here, I thought a bottle version might satisfy me instead. —Pam

  12. Laura says:

    Love it! I am tempted to steal it … the idea that is, not the bottle tree :)

  13. I think your new bottle tree is perfect. It goes well with your big agaves. Isn’t it funny when you get something new things need to be rearranged to make all seem new? FUN.

  14. Bob Beyer says:

    Go easy on the fertilizer! :-)

  15. Love it Pam! I have one similar to your new one….it was a challenge to get home in my Jetta. :D I will post a picture of it on FB tomorrow….got some good pics this morning.

  16. Rebecca says:

    I sure wish I could come up with more blue bottles! This is a fabulous shape/style.

  17. Melody McMahon says:

    Pam, love the bottle tree! The first thing I thought of was Felder Rushing’s Bottle Tree book I bought from him last year at A.R.E. and how he would like yours too!

  18. Beautiful use of blues, Pam – I love it. Even though the death star is still in your area, it looks cool and inviting. Beautiful tree! Love it….!

  19. I’ve come to believe EVERYTHING about your garden is cool, even in the heat. Thanks for being a constant source of inspiration.

    • Pam/Digging says:

      Oh, Vicki, it must be all in selecting good pictures. I have areas of banality, as most of us do, in my garden. But thanks for a lovely, pick-me-up compliment. ;-) —Pam

  20. Dee Nash says:

    I like it! A lot. Very cool structure. I wish I had a pool. Every garden with a Death Star needs a pool. Don’t you think?~~Dee

    • Pam/Digging says:

      We moved partly for the pool, Dee. When the kids were younger it was a way to get them outside and active even in the heat of summer, and it’s helped me the same way. A pool is a lot of maintenance though, which isn’t so fun to do now that it gets less use. —Pam

  21. That looks sooooooooo coooooool!!!!!! You must be so pleased!

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