Making labels

Making Labels

The danger of plastic labels

Whenever you buy a hosta, it usually comes with a beautiful plastic label, that provides all the information you need.
Or you make your own, a sparkling white label, written on with an absolutely weather proof marker.

But !! Beware !! I'm sure of it: hosta-labels LIVING CREATURES !!

Somewhere, well hidden, they have tiny little arms and legs they use to crawl away from their plant, if you don't put them in the soil deep enough.
If they can't move, they use their tiny sponge into their little hands and ... it may take them a while, but eventually they succeed in wiping of the writing !!
And, even when your marker proves to be stronger than their sponges, you're fighting a loosing battle, because plastic labels don't live very long; three year max and the part above the soil dies.
Take such a deceased little label in your hands and it will crumble into unreadable, tiny pieces.
The only place where such a plastic label really feels at home is below the soil surface, under or besides the plant.
Make sure to put the label in the same position for every plant, like on the right hand side.
This will provide you a backup should your new, ever lasting label go astray.

A solution

Having learned the need for a permanent label the hard way, I decided at the beginning of the 2006 hosta season (March 2006) to relabel my entire collection (some 300 plants at the time) with aluminum T-labels.

Where to buy them?

I started out searching the internet and ... came out empty handed.
When a label costs as much or more than the accompanying plant, something is definitely wrong in the cost an profit balance.

Making them myself ?

What can a self respecting Homo hostaholicus at times like that: he sets out to produce his won labels.

What do you need

  • aluminum flat profile, I used a width of 25 mm (1")
    I found them in 1 m ( 40") en 2,5 m (100") lengths in a local DIY store.
  • straight galvanized iron wire, length 1 m (40"), diameter preferably more than 2 mm (0,08").
    Found it on the internet with a large reseller of knutselgerei and office sundries.
    Unfortunately, I ordered a 2 mm (0,08") diameter, just a little bit on the thin side, which makes them a little bit to flexible.
  • glue
    I've tried out different flavors, a heavy duty construction glue suited my needs best (Fix-All by Soudal).
  • glue pistol
  • metal cutting scissors
  • a pair of pliers
  • cup of water with a few drops of dishwashing liquid

Let's do it

  • cut the aluminum flat profiles into pieces of the desired length.
    For me this is 10 cm (4").
    You can saw them, but this takes like forever.
  • ply the iron wire into a long, high U-shape.
    good practice: ply back the ends of the two legs.  They act as barbs and prevent the label from getting pulled out of the soil accidentally.
  • if you grow plants in containers, mini or small, cut the iron wire into 50 cm (12,5"). A H. 'Pandora's Box" in a container with a label towering 35 - 40 cm (8-10") above it, really an unsightly sight.
  • apply 2 lines of glue to the back side of the aluminum strip.
  •  press the legs into the glue, the closed end of the U-shape should be 3 5 cm (1,2-2") above the strip.
  • dip your finger in the water with and gently rub the glue inwards, so the iron wire is completely surrounded with glue.
  • allow to dry for 24 hours and

Printing the label

You can write on these labels with a weather proof marker, a paint marker, a pencil (readability on aluminum guaranteed for ... very, very long).

But, given the amount of effort that went into these labels and because I was very pleased with the final result, I wanted the text on the label to be on par. If you'd ever seen my hand writing, you'd understand why writing them myself was no option.
I remembered reading topics on the Gardenweb Hosta Forum on absolutely weather- and light proof self adhesive labels.
The thing to go for is a P-Touch printer (Brother).
On e-bay I found a P-Touch 9200PC, at a fraction of the cost for a new one.

The main advantage of this particular type of printer is it has a PC connection, which allows you to retrieve the desired data from you collection database or Excel file, saving you a lot of work.  This also compels you to store all of your collection plants in a data file, which may seem a lot of work just to get some labels, but you will be grateful for it in the long term, since you always will have a record for every plant in your collection. 
The labels themselves  (TZ-labels) come in cassettes (8 m (320") tape) . They exist in a wide range of colors (background and printing) and widths , and are made of several layers.
I chose for a transparent type with black lettering, which keeps the aluminum underneath visible, 24 mm wide.
The printing never fades: no ink is used, the characters are burned on one of the inner layers. 
The tape is rather expensive, but I still consider it good value for money.

Tip: print your labels in batches. The printer has the bad habit of cutting a small piece at the beginning of the tape with every separate print command. 
Using large batches can save you up to 6 labels per cassette.