Spring Edginess and Plant Labels

You know the feeling… the gardening magazines are telling you what you should be doing this month, and the glossy catalogues are all urging you to buy young plants for spring planting…

…. and it is still cold and wet with frosty nights and icy winds!

I should cut back my Miscanthus and Calamagrostis in the butterfly bed, as new growth is just about showing. And the Buddleia can be trimmed down a bit more too. But I think they look so lovely still with the hellebores and a few scattered spring bulbs.

There is one thing about this picture that disturbs me though.

Those white plant labels!

Then I had a brainwave. The black plastic pots that plants from the nursery come in can be used again for seedlings etc, but there are always some with sharp edges or broken bases which end up at our recycling centre. Why don‘t I recycle them myself…. into strips that can be used as labels? I tried it out, cutting rounded ends so they can’t scratch me when I’m weeding, and my silver pen works just as well on them as on the expensive black labels I have bought in the past. What‘s more, they are softer and more flexible than the bought ones, which snap easily if trodden on by mistake. (We will see how durable they are long term.) I will also make the next lot just a little longer so they can stick into the ground firmly.

(If you do try this out, let me know how it works for you. Or maybe you have a better way of labelling plants…?)

So here is my latest purchase -a pretty creamy white hellebore, with new label: H. x ericsmithii ‘Shooting Star’.

Intrigued by the name, I googled it and found an article about Mr Smith, a plantsman from the middle of last century who specialized in hellebore and hosta hybrids among other things. Here is the article if you are interested in a nice read…

‘Eric Smith, a Plantsman’ by J.C. Archibald

The other labels will also be replaced…. once it warms up out there!

Wishing you all some nice gardening weather soon!

51 thoughts on “Spring Edginess and Plant Labels

    • Hi Amelia. I tried lollipop sticks too but they started rotting over winter and went mouldy and the writing was completely illegible! Let‘s hope these work better. 🙂

  1. I used slats from white plastic shades with “permanent” ink for wonderful labels. However, the permanent wasn’t permanent and eventually faded over a winter to the point of becoming unreadable. I learned to write the label at both ends, one in the ground which could be resurrected when the above-ground portion faded. I “lost” a lot of plant names before I discovered my alternative.

    • That‘s a great idea, but I do prefer a less visible colour such as black. My silver permanent pen does seem to be very permanent… have been using it for several years now. 🙂

    • Thank you Eliza. I shall spend a rainy afternoon washing and chopping up pots this week ready for spring planting. Can‘t wait for some milder weather!

  2. As someone who use to write a weekly gardening column two decades ago, I can tell you that nowadays, most of those who write about what should be done at any particular time of year are probably not qualified to do so. Many copy what was written at about the same time last year. Much from last year was copied from a publication in a completely different climate.

    • Thanks Tony… I actually do have a page torn from a magazine about 15 years ago that summarizes jobs in almost the right timing for my garden, but I have scribbled notes on it over the years! Recently I was told I should be sowing tomato seeds on my windowsill. Uummm, so they should be nice and tall and spindly by the time I can plant them out in May! LOL!

  3. This is just brilliant. Not only do the white tags stand out where you don’t want them to they don’t hold the names more than a few months. I will be interested to hear if your tags with the silver paint holds up during the summer. I got to thinking maybe one should put a coat of sealer of some kind to make the paint last longer. ???? Rain the next three days here with warm temps. Warm for spring that is. The wind does make you realize it isn’t as warm as the thermometer says. Cheers.

    • This silver marker is absolutely permanent (i.e. lasts several years) on all the (expensive) black labels I have bought in the past. I have been using the same pen and labels for years, purchased regularly from Coton Manor gardens in Northants UK (near my parents). (http://www.cotonmanor.co.uk/ ) They use it for many of their own labels too and I can definitely recommend it. I am pretty sure it will also be permanent on any plastic.
      There is still an icy cold wind here too Lisa. But it should warm up a bit later this week. Fingers crossed! 😉

  4. Cathy, what a great idea! I love repurposing things, and how appropriate to use plant pots. The white tags bug me too, so I try hiding them among the plants. Your solution is far better.

  5. Cathy your new hellebore is divine, I love her color and the shape of her corolla. Your garden is wonderful for the cold you have and the stormy storms that have passed one after the other in a row and without trembling leaving water, snow, wind and cold. Hopefully this is over and you have good weather to do gardening with sunshine. I love your idea of ​​making labels with the black pots of the nurseries !!!!! It’s great! Although I use them many again to put the grown seedlings, there is always plenty left over. I totally agree with you in what gardening magazines say about “the tasks of the month and what to plant this month”. If you listened to them, you wouldn’t have a garden because you would kill him. We would become garden killers 😈 !!!!!! 😀😀🤣🤣 Luckily we have common sense. Have a great week. Sorry I haven’t written for so long, but I feel very bad: in a bottomless pit that I can’t get out of. Reading your blog has made me smile all the time: thank you very much. Greetings from Margarita xx

    • It is always lovely to hear from you Margarita and your comments are always so kind and positive. I am sorry you are feeling so low and do hope that spring will help you get back on track. You have had a hard time, so take care of yourself. All the best. 😃🌻☀️

      • Cathy thank you very much for your words. On the 14th, the Government of Spain faced with the numerous cases of the Coronavirus or Covid-19, declared the State of Alarm. All shops and stores are closed except those that sell food and bleach and the like, pharmacies and gas stations. Nurseries, schools and universities have closed. All the companies that your staff can telework from their homes are obliged to do so (my sister is one of them). People have to be confined to their homes and can only go out to go to work, buy food, take the dog for a walk, and put gas in the car or motorcycle. Nothing else. Family visits are not valid nor can you travel unless it is due to force majeure and refuted with papers. The Armed Forces have been deployed in the cities with the most infections, Madrid is at the head, and together with the police, they patrol to ensure compliance with the State Decree of Alarm. So at home with my dear Mother, we get along very well. We make videoconferences by WhatsApp between all the brothers and this is how we see each other. At 8:00 p.m. from Sunday the 15th we already went out to the windows and applauded the medical staff to encourage them: we have copied it from Italy. It’s on the news and the doctors say thank you. Cathy I’ll tell you how things are going around here. You too take great care and heed the German health recommendations. You worry me. Take care. Greetings from Margarita x

        • It is terrible here too Margarita. Our schools are closed for five weeks and shops and cafes are closing on Wednesday. I had to cancel a visit to my parents in the UK. What a mess! Take care. xx

          • Cathy the only thing you can do is take it easy and accept that the situation is like this and it will get worse, but it will pass and normality will return. Look at China as it was bad and they no longer have infections and the ones that are are from people who come by plane from abroad and immediately quarantine them. We cannot fight Covid-19 or Coronavirus. We can protect ourselves from it: wash your hands with soap for a minute, do not take them to your face, wear latex gloves to go outside and a mask. If you don’t have try to buy them. Kitchen gloves work as well, but you have to buy many because once used you have to throw them away. If you can not find masks, on YouTube there are a lot of videos on how to make them with super easy fabric. Make a big food purchase for two or more weeks and freeze what you can spoil in individual servings. Stay at home without going out at all, so you will be safe. You are lucky to have a wonderful garden that needs you as a gardener. Have fun and watch the news once or twice a day to be informed, but no more: is what psychologists say here in Spain. Do all those things that you have never had time to do. In good weather, sit in a comfortable chair in the garden and rest listening to the birds or rereading your favorite book. I have been confined at home with my dear Mother for 8 days and I only have a terrace now without the noise of cars or people. And I’ve done a lot of things. Nothing happens. If you have to speak here you have me, I am your friend. My email is margaritaecologica@outlook.com for whatever you want. Lots of encouragement, lots of strength and hope for the future. Take good care of yourself and your whole family. All the best. Very affectionate greetings from Margarita Xx

            • Thank you for all the good advice and good wishes! Our life here is very quiet anyway, so we will just carry on as usual minus the social contacts! Best wishes to you and your Mum. xx

              • Thank you very much for your words Cathy. Keep it up, calm and without social contacts. Here the Government has extended the Alarm State until April 11: confined at home until that date. My dear Mother and I are well. Well I yesterday with otitis in the right ear and sore throat, angina. I spent the whole afternoon half sitting- half lying on the sofa covered with a 100% virgin wool plaid blanket that we bought along with other and other things in Harrods on a trip to London my mother, my sister and me. Today I’m better, but my ear hurts a lot. Every winter I get otitis, it does not fail. I hope you are very well and my best wishes for you to continue like this. That you have weather and gardening. All the best. Very affectionate greetings from Margarita xx

  6. Very nice. The Hellebores are beginning to bloom here, too–very early for us. I love your labels–mine always seem to get dug up and thrown around by the squirrels. I think someday (maybe in my next garden?) I’ll get some heavy-duty, deeply planted metal ones.

  7. I think that those monthly magazines to do lists are always quite overwhelming and too generic so I never read them now 😄 You’ve made excellent use of those plastic pots to produce some attractive labels Cathy. The only plants I label in the garden are my special snowdrops. I’ve used both black and white small labels up to now but they are not ideal. It will be more expensive but I’m hoping to replace them with metallic ones.

    • I think metallic labels do look lovely – so professional and attractive to look at. Definitely a good idea for pots. I must apologise for not commenting on your blog recently. I write a comment and press send and nothing happens. Have tried with google and with my url address, to no avail! Will keep trying though! xx

  8. What a good idea Cathy and a way to recycle the plastic. I don’t often label things and when I do, the labels come out or disappear. I’m really not that interested anyways in learning the botanical names of things. Common names are good enough for me and about all this old brain can handle.

    • I am a word person and love names and labels and lists! 😃 Also I like to be able to talk about plants with my Mum and find the botanical names are common ground. I use German common names here and the English common names often evade me!

  9. Yes, black labels are far less obtrusive – perhaps I should go down the line of recycling plant pots this way as I still haven’t found an easy way of cleaning permanent marker from my redundant labels (well, is meant to be permanent!), and sadly I do end up with a lot of them!

    • Yes, that is a problem, removing the marker. My Pilot pen really is permanent too. It lasts for years on these black labels but that may be due to the material used for the labels too.

      • I have tried various suggested alternatives for removing it, but none of them are easy – but it wouldn’t be an issue if all our plants survived!

  10. Plant labels can be a tricky business. I bought aluminium ones but have to rewrite the names every couple of years. Best are probably the ones the RHS use. Hope your beautiful hellebore will do well. I lost my x ericsmithii, sadly. Wishing you a happy weekend and warmer weather soon xx

    • We had a lovely warm spring day today Annette and actually sat outside for a cuppa this afternoon! I tried copper labels, writing with a biro the print is then embossed in the copper… it works, but is hard to read in sunlight!

  11. Love how the garden is coming together. You already have quite the palette and I wonder if it’s been fun trying out all kinds of new plants now that you have open spaces!
    I will be on the lookout for a weathersafe pen, I’ve got to try this out 🙂

    • 😃 Yes, great fun seeing what will grow in different soil and on a very exposed hill too. And a new bed is being prepared for spring planting soon! 😃

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