Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Garden Labeling

Over the years I have experimented with many different types of labeling. I started out, as many of us have, by sticking the labels that came with the plant into the ground next to it as I planted. Not only was this ugly, but these labels are cheap and disposable and degrade in the sunlight to the point that within a year they shatter. There is nothing fun about kneeling by a plant and picking up a hundreds tiny bits of shattered white plastic.
So I graduated on to sturdy plastic stakes that I wrote on with a sharpie. Not long after I learned that sharpies wear off within a year and I'm left with a blank label. Great for temporary labeling, but disastrous when trying to remember the name of some rare little something wonderful. Another thing I found really annoying with the white stakes was they looked like little headstones placed throughout the garden.
I finally began to hit on something great while I was visiting the Van Dusen Garden in Vancouver, British Columbia. They had black labels with white lettering. They were very unobtrusive, yet easy to find. I called the garden when I got home and talked to the volunteer who headed up their labeling program and she was very helpful. They bought their stakes from a Canadian company, but I was able to find black stakes through a wholesaler here in the States. The labeling was done with a Brother labeling machine, available at any office supply store. The hardest part was finding the label tape that is black with white lettering. Some office supply stores carry it, but you may have to special order it. It's also more expensive than the white tape.
I was told by the lady at Van Dusen that these labels would last for at least 3 years, but I have most of my original labels that I made 9 years ago, still intact and looking good. If the label is getting direct sun, the stake will fade to a charcoal grey color after 5 years or so, but it still is very unobtrusive.

This is an interesting way to label shrubs or trees. The label is just for the purpose of identification by the gardener. It isn't easy to read from the path. But if that's all you need. it works great. The wire slides as the shrub or tree grows, limiting the possibility of girdling.

One last tip - If I have a perennial that I think I may remember, but I'm not sure, I usually bury the label that came with it alongside it as I plant. The label will usually stay intact without the sunlight on it and if I forget what it is, I can find out again when I dig it up to divide it.


JP said...

this year's Fedco catalog also has a little blurb about labeling, and all of the failures you're apt to encounter along the way. They suggest using old vinyl siding with pencil! (probably not as attractive as yours, though...)

Mary Delle said...

Would you be so kind to send the contact for the black stakes you use to put your labeling on? I like your ideas on labeling, as the sharpie certainly does not last. Thanks for posting them. My e-mail

Moonstone Gardens said...

The Labels can be bought from Macore out of Lafayette, Oregon.
They are a wholesale company. If you can't order direct, e-mail me at and we'll sell you some.