Plant Labels

Plants, bulbs, packets of seed and trees should always be labeled when bought, sold, or given away, or when moved to a new site, as it is easy to lose the name of a variety when out of the ground, and often impossible to identify it again with certainty. Labels for such temporary purpose are usually of plastic. When bought in quantity, plastic plant labels are cheap, either those notched and wired for attaching to trees, stakes or cord, or larger sizes sharpened to be pushed in the ground or into a pot or bundle.

Temporary plant labels are useful to mark single plants or flowers from which to propagate, collect seed and when storing bulbs over the winter. Newly sown rows, seed beds and seed pots are usually marked with plastic labels, except seeds very slow in germinating, which may need more lasting markers. Names should be written with ordinary lead-pencil or a permanent marker. For many purposes plants are labeled permanently, and gardeners have used such ingenuity in search of labels that will last that a host of forms, some of them excellent.

wrap around plant label

Labels for an arboretum, botanic garden, or nursery display-ground must be long-lived, not easy to remove or deface but easy to read in passing. They may be of painted wood with the name written in a lasting paint. If stakes, the wood chosen should be cypress, cedar, or some species which will not rot off in the ground. A better method is to mount the label on a steel or wire frame. All-metal labels last longer than wood, with sheet zinc or aluminum first choice. A sheet of zinc stamped with raised letters and mounted on a rigid steel frame is probably best of all. In marking trees, labels are often nailed to the trunk, but this practice is not good, because it injures and eventually disfigures the tree.

In a small garden, valuable named varieties should be given permanent labels for reference only, not to be read from a distance. Especially in the rock garden, where numerous rare plants are used, labeling is most desirable and concealment of the label most urgent. Gardeners often depend on the shipping label, which, if a tree name name is written distinctly in pencil on a plastic plant label, it may last on a tree or shrub from 2 to 5 years, and still be read. But it must be taken off and reaflixed often so that the wire will not cut into the bark.

Stake labels in the ground do not last as long, and are easily lost. The name is said to last much longer on wood labels if written with red wax crayon.

Permanent metal tree labels are of many kinds. Those of zinc may be written on with chemical ink. Paper-thin copper labels on which the name can be written with a metal stylus or large nail when the label is placed over a backing of soft cardboard, will last indefinitely, and the dark color of weathered copper is inconspicuous.

Labels on the ground are less easily made permanent than those on trees and shrubs. Frost loosens or pushes them out until they lie flat; then they become spattered with mud, and often, unnoticed, are raked up and thrown away with trash. Sometimes a label is moved to another plant in weeding, or kicked away by dogs. In these ways important varieties of herbaceous plants may be lost, or late-starting perennials like Platycodon may be dug out and destroyed in early spring cultivation.

For economy many gardeners use plastic labels in border and rock gardens, renewing them when the name wears off. In practice, however, the name often wears off completely before the new label is written.

Labeling your plants will help you keep the treasured varieties you work so hard to grow to perfection. In todays Labels also make sharing your botanical wonders with others. Make it a habit to label your plants when potting and planting.

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