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Home > Begonian > Volume 70 (July/August 2003)

Labeling Begonias and Other Plants
by Rekha Morris

After years of frustration with garden labels being pulled up, trampled upon and lost due to the various life forms in my woodland garden such as squirrels (who also eat up crocus corms and chew on prize tree peony buds), cats and husband who uses a blower/shredder to decimate the masses of leaves each tall (and in the process appears to blow way or shred labels as well), I have finally found a solution and some equilibrium.

I use vinyl venetian blinds which I buy at thrift stores for a couple of dollars each. I cut these into 4 to 8" lengths depending on where the label is to be used, the smaller ones for pots and the larger ones for the garden. If the label is to be tied to shrubs or small trees, I punch a hole at one end and use a strong tie to attach the label to a branch well above the soil level where I can see it when I need to. I prepare labels which go into the soil by clipping off triangular sections from one end to make a sharp point which facilitates their insertion into the ground. Instead of preparing a few labels as and when I need them, I prepare about 40 to 50 at a time, and using rubber bands bundle them according to size so that I have them ready to use whenever I need them.

Although white or cream venetian blinds are most readily available, some of the colored ones, pink, green or blue, are less of an eye sore in the landscape. Their advantage over wooden labels is obvious: they do not disintegrate as a result of constant expose to moisture.

Some gardeners cut off sections of soda cans and using a ball point pen indent the surface with the necessary information. I find this both more tedious as regarding the cutting required, but also less satisfactory as indented information is not as easy to read as those written by pencil. Since labels written with permanent ink markers are darker and easier to read, I often write down the name of the plant in pencil on one side and with the permanent ink marker on the other side, thus satisfying my need for indelibility and greater visibility respectively.

After having tried all the various permanent markers, none of which are really permanent as they may withstand water, but are invariably susceptible to sunlight, so that in time the labels are useless, I now use lead pencils. The best pencil I have is one I bought at the Chelsea Flower Show in London a few years ago. It is all lead (not lead encased in wood as our pencils generally are), and needs no sharpener. I have been using it for at least five years and there is enough to last me for another five. Since I have only one of these and I keep my labels and pencils in several appropriate places, I also use a regular lead pencil.

Having lost as many pencils and pens in the garden as labels, I now tie a length of orange plastic tape used around construction sites and available from Lowes or Home Depot around each pencil. When I am outdoors in the garden, I tie the other end of this orange plastic tape through one of the button holes in my shirt thus securing it from clumsiness or absent mindedness.

In the case of house plants such as begonias, I often use two sets of labels. I make a small one about 2" long and 1/2" wide, punch a hole through one end and tie it discretely to a stem The larger 4" labels are inserted in the soil with about an inch sticking out of the soil so that I do not have to fumble through the foliage looking for the smaller label when I need to check on the name of the plant.

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