Bottle tree

These small 'cedar' bottle trees come in all shapes and sizes. The branches sway in the wind!

Looking for a holiday gift for the gardener who has everything?

How about a bottle tree?

The decorative "trees" — with colored glass bottles for "branches" — are a tradition in the rural South and the Caribbean. But they're becoming a popular garden ornament in northern climes, as well as the subject of a forthcoming book.

"Bottle trees are the modern pink flamingo," garden author Felder Rushing told the Journal.

Gardener Maggie McDonald, who lives in Wisconsin Dells, had been pining for one ever since she first saw a homemade one at a friend's place. "I've wanted a bottle tree for so long," she said. She looked without success, until her husband located a bottle-tree artist an hour away.

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McDonald bought her "tree," trimmed with cobalt-blue bottles, in June and displays it near a steppingstone embedded with matching blue glass.

Jerry Swanson, the Princeton artist who made McDonald's tree, has sold his Bottle Tree Creations (www.bottletreecreations.com) to customers in 39 states.

A longtime bottle collector and master gardener, he got the idea to decorate trees while looking at his bare winter landscape.

Swanson makes trees in many colors but his most popular are cobalt blue, he said. "Because it's so rare. There aren't many wines that come in blue bottles. They don't even make ‘em in the U.S." (He gets them from Mexico, and from a nearby restaurant that collects them for him.)

Swanson's bottle trees cost $40 to $500.