Elmer’s Bottle Tree Ranch

Time and again I re-prove to myself the belief that, in design, anything – and I mean ANYTHING –  IF DONE IN ENOUGH QUANTITY – can be great.

elmer's bottle tree ranch route 66 california

Onesy, twosy, fiddlely, bits and bobs just plain typically equals twee  (I love throwing in UK words sometimes when they seem just right).  But if one of something doesn’t work then try a hundred.  (or at least a lot)

This handy designer trick came to mind as I stumbled across Elmer’s Bottle Tree Ranch on Route 66 near Bryman California.   Bottle Trees, (IMO) are perhaps the ugliest, junkiest re-use idea that I Never want to encourage.   I simply think that at some point, if you have one, you will suddenly realize that it is a pile of trash that doesn’t look good (and probably never did), and you will start looking around for who gave you that terrible idea in the first place — and I don’t want you looking over here.  Just saying, NOT IT!

elmers bottle tree ranch

But when I saw what Elmer has created, I was reminded that even though I stand by my bottle tree hatin’ stance,  there is some kind of beauty here. That there are over 200 bottle trees in addition to a garden full of other artistic creations is extraordinary.  Lots of bottle trees have created a forest where there wasn’t one.  A colorful magical one at that — A beautiful outdoor art gallery.

And to make it all the more interesting the hollow bottles whirr a sweet tune when the wind passes through them.  I am intrigued at the sound of 200+ of these things.

I suspect I should probably blame Elmer for inciting the garden trend of Bottle Trees, but I would rather celebrate his endurance, and creativity and simply encourage the rest of you to re-think these questionable one-off  ‘decorations’.

images from Atlas Obscura and tobysx70 (with permission)

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rochelle greayer

Hi, I'm Rochelle and for 18 years I have worked as a landscape designer, author/writer, and design teacher. I've designed residential and hospitality (for hotels, restaurants, and spas) gardens across the USA and in the UK, Europe and the Middle East. After many years of teaching garden design topics in person, I launched the PITH + VIGOR Boot Camp series in early 2018. Through my blog, social media, and online courses (Garden Design Bootcamp and Planting Design Boot Camp) I aim to help homeowners learn how to confidently design and create home gardens that reflect their own personal and unique style.


  1. Rebekah on February 23, 2012 at 5:28 pm

    The history of bottle trees is what makes them so beautiful to me. Traditions being passed down through centuries. But you do have to maintain them so they don’t get dingy and gross.

  2. Helen at Toronto Gardens on February 23, 2012 at 10:26 pm

    Now that’s a bottle forest I could get behind…especially against the sun!

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