I love bottle-brush trees, so I decided to take a look at these collectibles that can be found in many shops and homes where space is limited.
The trees are exactly as they sound. A bottle-brush tree looks like a bottle brush used to clean bottles. However, there is a real bottle-brush plant called Callistemon, which gets its name from the spikes of flowers that bloom at the ends of the stems, with a strong resemblance to a bottle brush. Some grow them as shrubs or small trees that can grow up to 15 feet. Most bottle-brush varieties bloom over a long summer season in shades of red or crimson.
The man-made bottle-brush trees were mass-produced. The first bottle-brush trees were made in Japan in the 1940s and '50s. Soon, they were being sold in the U.S., made by the same companies that made industrial-strength brushes. The vintage brush trees sell for around $5 on up, depending on size, age, condition and added details. They can look great displayed in a grouping of various colors, such as pink, white and green.
Where to find them
Since these trees have become quite popular, they tend to sell quickly. Melissa Klema, of Adourn in Chatfield, has many in her shop, including the fan-favorite Fraser fir.
“We have a bunch of beautiful sisal trees for your winter/holiday decorating," she said. "I love the pale pink paired with the soft white this year, soooo pretty. We’ve gathered the prettiest holiday decor ... simple, beautiful muted colors, and cheery! It gives the feeling of a nostalgic vintage Christmas and a clean simple Nordic feel.”
Sarah Kieffer, of Sarah's Uniques & Jim's “Man”tiques in St. Charles, shares Klema's love of vintage bottle-brush trees and wreaths.
“They come in so many different styles, sizes and shapes," she said. "I have many different kinds in the shop that sell from between $2 all the way up to $50 or more, depending on the size. These are fun to collect, and can be put just about anywhere in your Christmas displays.”
Joan Thilges, of New Generations of Harmony, has lots of bottle-brush trees, including vintage and neon varieties, at her antique mall.
“But my personal favorites — the ones I collect myself — are the older ones, the ones that may have turned a little brown, lost a few needles, or just show decades of use," she said. "Our tiniest is only an inch tall and has seen generations of love. The prices on these older, very collectible trees range from $6 up to $15.”
The Rusty Bucket (an occasional shop in Winona), with Shayna Dais and the creative souls who work with her, will be open again this weekend and next weekend.
“We have lots of different trees in our shop, from bottle-brush, ceramic, metal, glass and more to fit your décor and in various price ranges,” she said.
Sandy Erdman is a Winona-based freelance writer and certified appraiser concentrating on vintage, antique and collectible items. Send comments and story suggestions to Sandy at firstname.lastname@example.org.