Some time ago, before I got my foot through the door at Advanced Labelling (I’d been trying for years) I was in a local garden centre and found myself pondering plants and how they are sold. In particular, most species being a bit floppy and awkwardly shaped, I considered how they are labelled and if there’s a better way. Wandering (lonely as a cloud) among shrubs in tubs and lots of pots, it was with a glance at some plants that I formed the opinion that the humble loop-lock tag was, after all, the best solution. Alas, from this insight sprang further nagging questions. What types of plant tag are available, or even possible, and what kind of printer and software best suits them? Luckily, though I have little to do with plants and plant tags myself, on my first day in harness at Advanced Labelling I learned the answers to all these questions and many more that I hadn’t asked. Sitting bewildered at my desk with the world of plant tags and labels advancing towards me, I discovered the following:

Of the three types of label used in horticulture the simplest is, of course, the die-cut. This is typically oblong (like an address label) and self-adhesive so that once printed it can be peeled off the backing paper and applied to a plant pot or seed tray. A paper die-cut makes a cheap way to label a plant, but if you prefer to reuse your pots and would rather not have the bother of removing past labels from them, the option below might be better. The stick-in tag is made of relatively stiff material and has a pointed end so that it can be poked easily into the soil alongside the plant it is to identify. Truth to tell, the point is a bit of a token gesture because you would probably embed the tag at the same time as potting up the seedling rather than inserting it later when there’s the possibility of a mistake, but hey...

The third option is the big brother of plant labelling and favoured for large shrubs. Called the loop-lock tag this type is usually made of a durable material like Tyvek and punched with holes so that it can be looped around the base of the plant then fastened to itself. As plant labels go, these make good tree tags but they are so versatile as to make excellent garden tags generally. If you have thousands of pounds to spare for a colour printer you can even print a photograph of the plant in flower, but if you have only a few hundred pounds in your budget then there’s a good choice of single-colour printers on the market.

The thermal transfer type of printer produces the necessary weatherproof finish, and if you choose your model wisely it will even print other types of label too, such as regular office labels, and even ‘exit’ and ‘safety’ signs etc. for posting around your premises. Loop-lock labels are available in a range of colours, likewise the print ribbons, and for the eco-sensitive user some are made of biodegradable material. With so much to choose from, if you manage a garden centre or nursery and wake up in the night with a Dalek voice in your head saying ‘must label plant’ followed by your own voice saying: ‘but how?’ then why not buy a versatile monochrome printer such as a LabelStation, along with a suitable roll of label-stock, and discover what pleasant horticultural labels can be produced by the deft!