Tuesday, August 26, 2008

You Can Stop Drinking Now!

Or at least stop using my garden edging as an excuse for your wino ways!

(That cri de coeur you just heard was my husband exclaiming, "But I have not yet begun to drink!" Don't worry, honey, you can still drink; I just don't need the bottles any more.)

To my husband, my friends and neighbors, and many of you bloggers, I raise a glass. Many people suggested I ask a wine store for their empties. Some people even slipped me pieces of paper with names and numbers of said wine purveyors. Maybe those friends were just tired of hearing me talk about my quest, but I had faith in Austinites’ drinking abilities.

Collecting the wine bottles became a grand adventure that almost everyone wanted to be a part of. I had a regular pick-up route from friends and neighbors. I knew where to look just inside the gate for their empties. Anyone having a party knew that I would be by for the leftovers. After scavenging an empty wine bottle or two from the table next to us in a restaurant, the server became a co-conspirator. Many patrons may have wondered why I was leaving with such a huge doggy bag, but we--the server and I--knew it was full of the green glass destined for immortality in my garden.

I even committed a Class C misdemeanor in pursuit of my goal. I inadvertently violated city code 15-6-112: DISTURBING OR REMOVING CONTENTS OF CONTAINER PROHIBITED. Maybe that’s what the knowing glance was all about when I crossed paths with the man collecting aluminum cans.

Once I realized that obtaining the wine bottles would be the easiest part of the project, I got picky. No clear bottles, no super-size bottles, no ale bottles masquerading as wine bottles, and above all no wine bottles with writing on the actual bottle. I felt a little sad for the ones tossed back into the recycling bin, but then I realized that they might one day come back to me in the form of glass mulch. It’s the gardener’s version of “If you love something, set it free; if it comes back it's yours, if it doesn't, it never was.”

Actually installing the bottles took much longer than I had planned, not because I was sitting around waiting on you to drain the wine bottles, but because of that little thing I like to refer to as hell. Some of you call it Austin's hottest summer in 80 years, but that seems like a euphemism to me. Let's just call it what it is and accept that it was retribution for all of your drinking.

Initially I made some effort to keep the bottoms, which had become the top, level. Here I am lying on my stomach checking out the line. This start gave me a pretty good foundation for the rest of the edging but boy howdy that was taking a LONG time.

The differences in the bottles’ height and circumference meant that I had to customize the trench for each bottle. Ultimately I decided to strive for overall symmetry and let any individual oddity be my expression of wabi sabi.

I used a friend’s sharpshooter and my favorite hand tool, the soil knife, to dig the trench. Once I got the bottles in at the level I wanted, I backfilled a bit. I could put about three or four bottles in the trench before I had to fill the trench. I didn’t fill it completely until I had finished the whole edging.

I found that trying to line up too many bottles at once led to problems. It was kind of like writing on a chalkboard. I started off okay but by the end I was writing too high. After a couple of power installation sessions, I ended up pulling out several bottles because once I stepped back I could see how out of line they were. I took that as a sign to pace myself and stop to drink some more wine.

I had the curved line for the edging in mind when I dug the bed. Making the large curve was fairly easy. The shorter curve was harder and not entirely smooth. I found the rock when I was digging the bed and used it as a stepping stone to walk into the bed. I left it in the edging because I liked the way it broke up the long line.

The hardest part of the task was removing the labels from the wine bottles. I soaked the wine bottles in my wading pool and then used a razor blade to scrape the remaining label off. I don’t know if the difficulty in removing the label is correlated to the price of the wine but some bottles definitely did not want to be naked.

So there you have it: 102 bottles of Pinot noir, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, Gew├╝rztraminer, and Vinho Verde; Chardonnay, Pinot noir, Tempranillo, Sauvignon Blanc, Malbec, and Sangiovese; the bubblies of Prosecco and champagne; and the ubiquitous red table wine.

102 wine bottles in the ground, 102 wine bottles in the ground, . . ., none of which are keeping my dog from making herself at home in the new bed.


  1. That looks very nice, Vert. I was looking for the blue bottles I passed along to you, but perhaps you're saving them for a bottle tree?

  2. Hi Pam, yes, the blue bottles are destined for a bottle tree. I've got to dig a new bed for it when it cools down!

  3. Vertie, it looks great! I really appreciate your explaining and illustrating the whole process--LOTS more effort than one would think!

  4. Vertie,

    What a terrific idea and it's clear your puppy thinks so too! It's like the cat who has to sit on the newspaper you're trying to read!

  5. Very creative Vert!
    We drink so much wine in the ESP that I realise now, how much money I have needlessly spent at custom stone!
    Love this!

  6. After seeing this idea both at Jill Nokes's garden and in a book of French potagers, I tried it last year. I did not get very far in the project because we had such a cool, rainy summer and water collected in the bottles making a haven for mosquito breeding. So I took out the whole border and put the bottles in the recycling bin. How are you coping with that issue?

    Your photos inspire me to start again. I want to edge a new herb bed and bottles might be the thing. I have enough of them!

  7. Your original post inspired me to try my hand at a similar border with beer bottles at my house. The whole thing was maybe four feet long and I only got about half way done. Its a lot of work. Your's looks great!

  8. Wow, I'm impressed that you didn't just wait until fall to dig in all of the bottles. It looks great. :)

  9. Looks wonderful. Now you just need a a good story to tell when showing off your garden about the great party you threw that ended with a bunch of drunk guests creating a edging made entirely of bottles.

  10. LOL! Yeah, I have the same problem with my dog. I'm sure it doesn't help when I chuckle as I see Miss Coco stretched out on her "bed" of dianthus or red sedum foliage.

    The edging looks great! But don't stop people from drinking just yet--don't you have more garden beds to eventually edge?!

  11. Hi, I just found your blog when googling on how to make edging from wine bottles. I've hopped around and read several of your posts; you have a cute blog, and I see we are both gardening in central Texas, but I'm further north near Dallas. Thanks for the advice, I'm planning on trying the edging as soon as I collect enough bottles.

  12. Hi, I'm writing a post about wine bottle borders am wondering whether I may use one of your images. I'd credit you and link to your blog, of course. Please email me if you'd be open to it! emilyh[at]apartmenttherapy[dot]com

  13. I'm going to give this a try. My plan is to use the bottles to divide the flower beds into levels. I'm an artist so my edger won't be quite as neat as yours! My granddog, Gizmo, "helps" with the digging! Grammy lets him get away with most everything but eating the mulch!

  14. Love it! I recently took a garden tour and photographed an edging like this. My next project! Thanks for the tips!