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labeling plants in restored public garden

Posted by plantponderer zone 5 (My Page) on
Wed, Oct 11, 06 at 15:18

My local gardening club has taken on a project to restore the foundation plantings of the house of a former plant and tree collector. We are told he had rare plants from all over the world. We have the means of identifying these plantings but need to find a way to properly label them to be helpful to visitors to this public garden. In the long run there are many acres of gardens and woods that will be next to a state park and will be used by the public and the local high school. I believe the labels should be comprehensive yet located with the plant or tree rather than in a brochure that would have to be printed and supplied. Also we need something that can be prepard by anyone with some craft skills and it should be very low cost as we are all volunteers. Finally, the labels shouldn't interfer with routine maintenance such as mowing. Any ideas are welcome.


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RE: labeling plants in restored public garden

Hello plantponderer,

My former garden club did a similar project some years ago - at that time I was the person encouraging really good signage, against the advice of the more experienced. The results were mixed, at best, and since then I've heard many horror stories, and have spoken to horticultural folk at Austin's botanical garden.

So my first question to you is this: how public is the garden?

If there's unrestricted access to the beds, be prepared for the signs to be stolen, destroyed, relocated, used as fencing equipment by youngsters, and if they are light enough, sometimes taken away by critters! Also, the very same sign that tells the gardener what a wonderful plant you have will also tell the garden thief what's considered valuable. They no longer label the best stuff at some public parks because horticultural knowledge and moral depravity aren't mutually exclusive, darn it!

If you have some means of restricting access and/or keeping records of who was present, that would be a different situation, and I hope that's your situation.

As to form - one interesting method was developed by the great Illinois plantswoman and author Trudi Temple. She made her signs by using woodburning tools to write the botanical & common names of each species on rectangles of wood. She had someone make heavy wire stakes with a sort of open curled circle at the top. The wooden placards had a hole drilled top center, which was threaded onto the wire curl, then the straight end of the wire was inserted into the flower bed. You could easily add standard symbols for sun/shade/moisture, paint or stain the lettering for contrast and cover it all in polyurethane for protection.

Good luck with the project!

Annie at the Transplantable Rose


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RE: labeling plants in restored public garden

Annie at the Transplantable Rose

Thanks for your post. I like the idea of using a wood burning tool. Why didn't I think of that?

Our project will be completely open to the public. However, we are unlikely to have the problems you mention, except for the critters, here that means deer and bears. We are in a very small town (400 pop.) in Northern Michigan. Very well behaved people here for the most part. Not even necessary to lock everything up. None of the public gardens our club cares for are ever bothered. This new garden has been unattended for about eight years and no one bothers to even pick the ripe fruit in the fall even though it's right on a US highway.


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RE: labeling plants in restored public garden

It sounds as if you live in a lovely place, plantponderer, and I hope your club enjoys sharing the knowledge! I can't imagine the bears will use plant markers as Jedi swords.
At the park we worked on, the garden was near to a medium-sized building that was rented out for meetings and parties, with bored children and rowdiness involved.

Annie in Austin
[the Transplantable Rose is just the name of my garden blog]


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RE: labeling plants in restored public garden

The way the Scott Foundation labels their holly collection is by using the common tin labels and wiring them to branches. These are the soft metal labels you write on (engrave) with pencil. No worries about mowing them because they aren't in the ground. They probably move them regularly, but that is actually an issue with most labels. There are critters who will find them interesting, but so long as they are securely attached, they should stay still.

Bizarre and interesting things seem to happen to signs stuck in the ground over winter.

Staying away from brochures is a good idea unless you have a regular source of income. They can get very expensive very quickly.


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