Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Plant Labels - My New Approach

Over the years I've spent a small fortune on labels for the plants in our garden, mostly the white plastic kind from the home center. For various reasons few survive, leaving me to wonder if that really is a bare space, or if it's the home of a dormant plant that should be left in peace. Many of the labels that stay in place have become so brittle they shatter into tiny pieces when I try to pull one out and read it. The writing on others has faded to the point of being illegible, or has completely disappeared, leaving no clue as to the identity of the plant they mark. Some labels just get up and walk away. It's all very frustrating - and expensive, and I've been looking for a better way to mark the plants.

A partial answer to my label problem came as I was sifting through back issues of Fine Gardening magazine and discovered that plant gurus Dan Hinkley and Tony Avent use extra fine black DecoColor paint pens by Uchida, which are weatherfast and can be used on glass, wood, clay, stone, porcelain, mirrors, metal and paper. That was good enough for me, so I ordered a couple.

The other half of the solution is cutting up 1 inch venetian blinds for labels, instead of buying the commercial ones. Each slat of a two foot blind gave me four labels. I wanted to recycle a metal blind for durability, but I don't have any, so I settled for buying the smallest, cheapest vinyl blind I could find for about $4. I'll bet the vinyl labels don't last very long, but they're a fraction of the price of commercial labels, and it's a chance to test the DecoColor pens to see if the ink really is weatherproof around here. I think metal blinds will be the long term answer, and I'm sure to run across a superfluous one in a house that needs to be staged....:)

In addition to the species and cultivar, the size of labels and the fine tip pen allow me to include more information about the plant, such as the color, height, and date planted. OK, I admit that I'm a plant geek. I just put the new labels to work when I planted some astilbe, and as my dormant perennials emerge, I'm going to mark as many as possible so they're less likely to be dug up or stepped on (by Roger, of course - I'm innocent...).

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