Wednesday, January 21, 2015

The Blue Bottle Bush

There is something new on the horizon in my backyard garden.
It is tall. It is metal. It is glass.

I have been thinking about adding one of these in my garden for quite a while and finally got around to building one.

Bottle trees have been popular in gardens in recent years. Click here for some historical background. Instead of a bottle tree, I call my creation a bottle bush. 

Fans of Pam Penick's blog, Digging, (and who isn't a fan of Digging) may think my bottle bush has some similarities to her ocotillo bottle tree. I swear I did not steal her idea. My bottle bush idea has been bouncing around in my head for several years. I had the rebar and I had some bottles, but I never had or made the time to make one until last month on the day after Christmas.

My bottle bush was made from the three rebar tepees that I removed from the garden last year. Looking back on this photo from June 2012, I wonder why I removed them.

I took my 15 pieces of 5/8 inch rebar of varying lengths and bent them with a pipe bender. You insert the pipe or rebar into the curved end of the pipe bender and use leverage against a hard surface (a sidewalk in my case) to bend the pipe. It takes a little muscle and an eye for plant growth habits to bring a lifelike shape to a straight piece of metal.

As I was bending the rebar, I stuck it in the ground to create the shape of my bush. I wish I had numbered the branches of my bush so I could recreate this shape. I actually prefer it to the current shape. As for the bottles, I had been collecting them from anybody that would donate to my cause, but I only had six blue bottles after four or five years. I did not have enough bottles of one color to complete the bush, so I thought I could use green bottles on the lower branches to represent the leaves of my bush and the taller branches would have blue bottles to represent flowers.

Since I drink grape juice and not wine, my alternate idea was to use frozen concentrate grape juice containers instead of wine bottles on my bush. The only problem with this idea is that the containers would probably blow off with a strong wind. In the end, I decided all blue wine bottles would work best. I found some bottles for sale online, but shipping would cost as much as the bottles. My internet searches finally lead me to a local beer making store that had blue hock bottles in cases of 12 for about $20. I bought two cases.

I thought of a couple of ideas to minimize contact between glass and metal. The first was to dip the ends of the rebar in Plasti Dip Multi-Purpose Rubber Coating. Plasti Dip comes in a can and is typically used to add a rubber coating to the ends of hand tools, such as pliers. Two dips seemed to be enough for a good coating.

While I was waiting for the Plasti Dip to dry, I stuck the rebar in the ground in a random linear pattern. I kind of like the look. This might look good in front of a fence, hedge, or maybe used as a see through screen.

To keep the neck of the bottle from rubbing against the rebar and to give it a snug fit, I cut a one inch length of 5/8 inside diameter vinyl tubing, ran it up the rebar and inserted the tubing into the bottle. You can barely see the tubing in the neck of the bottle.

I pushed the rebar branches into the ground as far as I could. There is up to 8 feet of rebar above ground and maybe one foot underground. I am not sure how this will hold up long term. Wet soil, dry soil, and wind could loosen the rebar and cause it to fall over. Concrete will be a last resort because I want to be able to move or adjust the branches of the bush if I get the urge. 

It is raining right now and is supposed to rain all day tomorrow. I hope the branches stay upright and I do not have to pick up pieces of broken bottles this weekend.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Winter Blues

I have winter blues because I have not been able to spend any time in the garden lately. It has been cold and/or wet for the last several weeks and  when there is a nice day, it is usually during the week and not on the weekend. 
I don't get to see much of the garden other than what I can see out this window before work.

I can see a little more if I lean to the right look to the left.

And a little more if I lean to the left and look to the right. The good news is that the sun will come out tomorrow and the temperature will warm into the 60s by the weekend. I have more plans for the weekend than I have hours, but it will be nice to get outside for a while.

Do you have winter blues too?