Photography Tricks

Sage Advice: Get Those Hands Dirty!

Sage Advice: Get Those Hands Dirty!

Dig, plant, water. If only it were that simple. It’s actually the passion for this art and the accoutrements involved that make it flourish.

The color palette of my passion lives in my garden. There’s nothing like running your fingers through the earth—you know, getting those nails almost irreparably dirty. 

Born and raised in Texas—with seven hells of heat from June to October—I had to hone my craft. Admittedly, many a plant succumbed to my not-so-green thumb in those early endeavors. 

But, along with any horticultural niche you find yourself in, you end up speaking and feeding into the lore of the land (so to speak). I mean, you can’t have a successful garden without those faithful little gnomes lurking throughout. 

Wooden crate with a variety of fresh green potted culinary herbs growing outdoors in a backyard garden

Bunches of fresh garden herbs on a cutting board

Gnomes at Work in the Garden
Keep your garden fruitful with a few cute—and creepy—garden gnomes. Images via stockcreations, marcin jucha, and Andy Pollard.

In my former life, I was an English professor. Before moving on to my current job as an editor or—as I like to refer to it—an architect, I spent some time studying in Faulkner’s southern fried Yoknapatawpha, the Mississippi Delta, and the rural ambiance of it all.

Which is where I found my love of the bottle tree and its illustrious lore. Maybe you’ve seen these beauties—colorful, unique—no two are alike.

Multi-colored bottles seen both broken and secured to posts
Even broken bottles are lovely. Image via geoBee.

As the lore goes, you hang bottles in trees—blue ones are best—so when evil spirits approach your house with devilish intentions, they’re lured into these glistening enclosures, become trapped inside, only to be extinguished by the morning sunlight. Problem solved.

Traditional bottle tree with cobalt blue bottles on a metal structure
A traditional bottle tree with haint blue bottles—sure to capture those little demon-spirits. Image via Maria T Hoffman.

As blue is commonly associated with ghosts, spirits, and the like (haint blue, to be exact), having your tree filled with blue bottles ensures a good catch.

This particular color blue is used on doors, porch floors, and porch ceilings for that exact reason. Spirits, particularly bad ones, love blue. And, yes, my front door and back porch are painted that exact color, along with bottle trees on both ends . . . so, I’m covered. Thank you for your concern.

However, you see bottle trees adorning yards throughout the South, often in a lovely array of colors. (Just make sure one of those bottles is blue, mind you.)

Various colored bottles on a metal structure in the foreground with a garden in the background
Bottle trees accentuate the already colorful and fresh essence of your garden. Image via Lee Yiu Tung.

How about some cool-season inspiration? Well . . . winter gardens exist, even in Texas. Broccoli, beets, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, carrots. Surly snapdragons, delicate dianthus, and poised, petite pansies.

Don’t forget to plant those tulips, daffodils, and spider lilies for a lovely spring surprise.

Red lily-flowered tulip in the foreground with a field of the same tulips in the background

Yellow daffodils laying in the foreground with a green bottle with daffodil inside a brown crate

A bewitching red spider lily in the foreground with a green field in the background

A field of red and yellow flowering lily tulips
Lilies are a favorite garden perk, as they come in various color and shape incarnations. Image via Sergey V Kalyakin, PeartreeProductions, High Mountain, and Brookgardener.

But, always lurking in and about every-season’s garden—the bottle tree. Keeping us safe. Providing that shiny glass sparkle with a colorful twist.

Bouquets of different aromatic windflowers and glass bottles placed on an old wooden table standing near a rustic wall

A colorful bottle tree situated next to a cactus in a garden

Top-view of a blue bottle tree in a rock garden
The many hues of garden art. Images via Mariia Korneeva, Julien McRoberts, and Delaire Rowe.

So, we come full circle. The color of my passion? Rosemary, lavender, basil, mint, lemon balm, lilies, sunflowers—in all of its flavors, sizes, and mountainous multitudes.

Sun-baby succulents. Prickly pear. The subtle stream of purple hearts. Pretty peppers ready to be pickled—green, red, purple, orange. 

And yes, that colorful tree of glistening glass.

Dried herbs hanging over bottles of tinctures and oils on a wooden table
Images via Madeleine Steinbach.

The color of my passion changes with the seasons, but it always begins and ends with a dive into the rich savory soil; luscious, colorful, bewitching smells; curious gnomes; and a bottle tree to keep it all sage . . . I mean safe.

Cover image via Kerdkanno.

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