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Thursday, March 13, 2008

Do you label your plants?

Do you label the plants in your garden?

When I first began growing perennials, it never occurred to me that I'd want to save the cultivar names. My mom had always taken me to Old Westbury Gardens so I knew that they did label plants in public gardens but I never considered it as something done in a private garden.

One of the first things I learned after joining the Long Island Daylily Society was that if you were going to collect plants, you needed some kind of labeling system. Our club bought sturdy markers in bulk and resold them (at no profit) to members. I estimate I bought about 700 of these markers over the past 12 years which was quite an expensive investment in the garden.

This time of year though (that photo was taken last April) my yard is full of these shiny metal markers. It looks like a mouse cemetery!

There aren't any beautiful photos in this post, that's because I don't find labels very beautiful. To tell the truth, I'm getting awfully tired of seeing them in my garden. So what's a person to do if they want to tell one cultivar from another?

Last year I began photographing the plant and the label as I came home from the nursery. I hope that this way I can keep a record on my computer. At least a record of what plants I purchased. You see, I'm not one of those list-type people and I'm also not a garden map guru.

These plastic tags that come with the plants are always sunk into the ground when I first plant my new arrival. The problem with these things is they become brittle and break, creatures move them around the garden and wind and weather create havoc on them (forget about what the leaf blower does!).

Sometimes I write up a second label on a recycled piece of mini-blind (see top photo) and sink that label as far in the hole as possible. The writing stays intact underground, especially if you write it in pencil.

Hosta are the one plant that I don't mind labeling too much, I write the name on a tag and sink it deep into the ground. The Hosta foliage quickly covers this label so I don't have a glaring reminder whenever I look at my garden.

Anna over at flowergardengirl wrote a blog about plant names this morning. She had a good idea of a way to learn your plant names. Now I need a good idea on how to keep track of those names in the garden.

Do you label your plants?


easygardener said...

Viewing the garden from the perspective of a plant collector, rather than as a garden designer, is probably the reason for my highly organised approach to marking plants.

I label all my plants. I've got over 500 different varieties, even though my garden isn't large. How else can I remember what I've got and where they are? I also list them in a spread sheet, border by border (sounds so nerdy but it's very effective).

I've got so little empty space in the garden I can't afford to buy something I've already got :-)

Brenda Kula said...

You know, I bought those little metal things you show above over a year ago. Probably two. And they're still sitting somewhere in the garage. I need to get them out and put them to use and label my plants! Thanks for the reminder.

Crafty Gardener said...

I use labels for my plants, from old mini blinds, rocks, fancy labels etc. I love your idea of taking a photograph of the plant and label. It could then go into a digital journal. I'm going to be trying this in the spring.

redrahde said...

Yep, I label each and every one. It's the only way I can remember the names for a lot of them. I also keep a fairly accurate list of them all in an Access document, along with their habits, requirements, etc. I have no idea why I do this, exactly; I just feel compelled. Although, I find that I was better about keeping up with it before I retired than I am now. I can't quite figure that one out.

lintys said...

I save the tags. In my current garden I'm able to remember which tag goes with which plant. I like your idea of taking a picture of the plant with the tag. That will be helpful in the future as the garden grows, and as I can (hopefully) talk my lawn man out of some of his prime lawn real estate. Wish me luck on that one. I need it.

Gina said...

hi melanie - I've been thinking about plant labeling a lot lately. I really don't care for the way that labels look but they are just so darn practical! I mean i've already forgotten the names of tons of my plants. At the SF garden show this week I saw one designer who cut thin pieces of of a tree truck leaving the bark on the outside and then wrote the names on the flat part. It was very nice looking and much more natural than metal or plastic. Of course it would eventually decompose but it sure was a neat idea.

Meems said...

I don't label within my garden due to the distraction (for me anyway) of whatever material is used. I do keep the tags that come with each plant on purchase- the ones that have photos, names and habits. That way if I forget something about the plant I can refer to the tag. Since the tag has a photo on it I can rely on that.

For some reason remembering which plants I have already is not a problem for me. Although now that I am planting my first veggies it is a whole other story. I am labeling what I plant there at least until the seeds grow and can be identified.
Meems@ HoeandShovel

Gail said...

I don't label the plants in the garden but I have a bouquet of all the labels in a large cup on the bookshelf. So far I have been good at matching the hundreds of tags against the plants!

I have a digital camera...that might be a better system.


Pam/Digging said...

For a few years I used copper plant labels just on my roses and daylilies, to keep them straight in my mind. But my garden is so small that it isn't hard to remember what I have. I'd forgotten about the labels until recently, and when I saw them again I pulled them out. No mouse cemetery here---but what a hilarious image!

Connie said...

I use a piece of mini-blind with the name written in pencil and push it in the ground. Some of them are now 3+ years old and still readable. Since I grow many perennials from seed, I use the same labels created to identify the seed variety. I also include the height of the plant, and whether it likes sun or shade, etc. on the back of the label....this saves me time when planting out, so I don't have to look it up.

Anonymous said...

I keep the labels that came with the plants in a box. I also try and keep a "journal" on my computer with the plant name, picture, and any pruning that is required. I would love to label the plants in my garden - but as yet have not come up with something that I find visually attractive, and combines well with the planting. I think your idea of photographing the plant and label is great.

Jan said...

I rarely used labels in the garden in the past. I always could remember every thing I planted, but the things I've planted lately, if they go dormant, I don't remember what's where. So I have started to label everything. I keep all the tags that come with the plants in a folder for reference. I don't know if it is too many plants or a bad memory that is forcing me to now use labels.

Jan Always Growing

N. & J. said...

Right now we have our plants labeled. We painted their names on their pots but once we get a yard and garden I probably won't.


Anna said...

How about that! You put my name up in lights. Thank you! Looks like you read into my humor what my thinking was about. I was trying to figure out for myself how to label all the new plants going in my gardens. I don't like the mouse grave markers either;) I'm not good at keeping up with those plant info tags. Picture making may be my only hope. One of my friends made a big plant marker mistake that turned out funny as all get out. She decided to use PVC pipe. She cut them to about 10 inches and wrote the info on the pole. She was busier than ever pounding pole after pole in the ground. I came over to see what was up and now I'm viewing it from a distance unable to hold back very unlady like laughter. It was uproarously funny. Tummy hurting kind of laughter. I told her to come look at it from my house--well--there were no plants in sight. Your eye went right to the white poles. Looked like she had a dad gum white pole garden. I helped her remove them.

Lin zone 9a said...

I keep an album/journal of my garden with photos and a listing of the plants common/latin name which is good because I do sometimes forget a plant's name (oddly enough, it's usually the common name I forget). I've tried various markers/labels over the years and just don't like the way they look in my garden. (I like the idea of recycling old mini-blinds, though.) But, as I was reading your post an idea came to me. I'm going to use small rocks. We have a lot of native stones all over the garden, so they will, hopefully, "blend" in and I've used outdoor paints (I paint outdoor murals) that I know hold up to the sun and elements. I'll give it a try.

Melanie said...

Well it looks to me like most of you think like I do, as much as I like the ease of having the plant name there, I don't like the look of all these markers.

In the past I've done the painted rocks as lin mentioned. The beach is only 15 minutes from here and I've collected beautiful smooth white stones from there. Maybe it's time for another walk on the beach soon?

Mini blinds are popular too, I was able to pick up a dozen old miniblinds last year from freecycle and cut those up to use as name tags for our plant sale. I've got to check my inventory on that too.

As for the perennials, I'm going to do like many of you commented and instead of sticking that plastic tag in the ground, I'm going to save them in a file box after I also photograph them. If nothing else, those photographs will help me when I'm working here and posting things on my blog.

Thanks for all your great comments! I'll stop by and visit all of you tonight, today I've got work in the garden, work in the house and volunteer PTA work that has to be tackled. I've also got to look and see if I can photograph anything for GBBD (garden bloggers bloom day) which is the 15th of every month.


SuzyQ said...

I almost have to label my plants - or I forget what they are - I get so excited planting things that I often plant too much and forget what I put where. I really want metal labels, but I opted for plastic ones for now - the are white and you write on them with pencil and the writing has stayed on all year!

Melanie said...

suzyq, you are correct about using pencil. I've had every kind of marker fade away after time but pencil will never fade. It's kind of a trade off, the pencil is lighter to begin with but two years later it still looks the same.

If I have time when I write a marker, I write the front in bold with a garden marker and the back I write in pencil.