Monday, 17 June 2013

On the naming of plants (part 2)

Many gardeners enjoy plants simply for their individual form and beauty and don't care about knowing the botanical name. Sadly, I need to know all the names of the plants I grow, therefore I rely on plant labels to remind me of the common name as well as genus, species, and cultivar details. Despite my love of recording plant names I hate seeing plastic plant labels left on plants after they have been planted. These nursery tags not only look unsightly but in time cause damage when the plants grow around the wire attachment. So if we eschew the tags given to us by nurseries what kind of label should we use?

While this old style plant label is clear and
informative markers are worthless when
 they are placed next to the wrong plant

I love the detailed labels used in botanical gardens. In the past these labels were large and detailed as can be seen in the old label shown above. This easy to see marker is perfect for large trees and shrubs but was expensive to make. In recent times botanical institutions have preferred  cheaper and more discrete tags. While these smaller labels work well for garden staff they are frustratingly hard to see for garden visitors. Many a time I have traipsed over garden beds trying to find the name of a noteworthy plant.

A quirky way of identifying trees

Trees need good sized labels which identify the plant by its common and scientific name. If the label is not attached to the tree passers-by may be confused over what tree is being sign-posted. One quirky technique is to make the label into the the leaf shape of the intended tree.

For the home garden large labels are unnecessary and we can rely on more subtle methods. For shrubs and small trees I like to use aluminium or copper labels. These can be etched with the plant name by using a pencil. As long as the wire attachment is loose the label can stay on the tree for many years.

An attractive durable plant label made of slate

Usually gardeners know the names of the plants we commonly use but may simply need a reminder on correct spellings and variety names. Labels are essential for bulbs and herbaceous plants whose foliage dies down during its life cycle. For perennials and and small shrubs I often don't label the plant at all and rely on recording the location in a note book.

What's your preferred type of labelling?

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