If one has a large and valuable collection of fruit or ornamental plants, it is desirable that he have some permanent record of them. The most satisfactory method is to label the plants, and then to make a chart or map on which the various plants are indicated in their proper positions. The labels are always liable to be lost and to become illegible, and they are often misplaced by careless workmen or mischievous boys.
For vegetables, annuals, and other temporary plants, the best labels are simple stakes, like that shown in Fig. 177. Garden stakes a foot long, an inch wide, and three-eighths inch thick may be bought of label manufacturers for three to five dollars a thousand. These take a soft pencil very readily, and if the labels are taken up in the fall and stored in a dry place, they will last two or three years.
For more permanent herbaceous plants, as rhubarb and asparagus, or even for bushes, a stake that is sawed from clear pine or cypress, eighteen inches long, three inches wide, and an inch or more thick, affords a most excellent label. The lower end of the stake is sawed to a point, and is dipped in coal tar or creosote, or other preservative. The top of the stake is painted white, and the legend is written with a large and soft pencil. When the writing becomes illegible or the stake is needed for other plants, a shaving is taken off the face of the label with a plane, a fresh coat of paint added, and the label is as good as ever. These labels are strong enough to withstand shocks from whiffletrees and tools, and should last ten years.
Whenever a legend is written with a lead pencil, it is advisable to use the pencil when the paint (which should be white lead) is still fresh or soft. Figure 178 shows a very good device for preserving the writing on the face of the label. A block of wood is secured to the label by means of a screw, covering the legend completely and protecting it from the weather.
If more ornamental stake labels are desired, various types can be bought in the market, or one can be made after the fashion of Fig. 179. This is a zinc plate that can be painted black, on which the name is written with white paint. Many persons, however, prefer to paint the zinc white, and write or stamp the label with black ink or black type. Two strong wire legs are soldered to the label, and these prevent it from turning around. These labels are, of course, much more expensive than the ordinary stake labels, and are usually not so satisfactory, although more attractive.
For labeling trees, various kinds of zinc tallies are in common use, as shown in Figs. 180 and 181. Fresh zinc takes a lead pencil readily, and the writing often becomes more legible as it becomes older, and it will usually remain three or four years. These labels are attached either by wires, as _a, b,_ Fig. 180, or they are wound about the limb as shown in _c, d,_ and _e,_ in Fig. 180. The type of zinc label most in use is a simple strip of zinc, as shown in Fig. 181, wrapped about the limb. The metal is so flexible that it expands readily with the growth of the branch. While these zinc labels are durable, they are very inconspicuous because of their neutral color, and it is often difficult to find them in dense masses of foliage.
The common wooden label of the nurserymen (Fig. 182) is perhaps as useful as any for general purposes. If the label has had a light coat of thin white lead, and the legend has been made with a soft lead pencil, the writing should remain legible four or five years. Fig. 183 shows another type of label that is more durable, since the wire is stiff and large, and is secured around the limb by means of pincers. The large loop allows the limb to expand, and the stiff wire prevents the misplacing of the label by winds and workmen. The tally itself is what is known as the "package label" of the nurserymen, being six inches long, one and one-fourth inches wide, and costing (painted) less than one and one-half dollars a thousand. The legend is made with a lead pencil when the paint is fresh, and sometimes the label is dipped in thin white lead after the writing is made, so that the paint covers the writing with a very thin protecting coat. A similar label is shown in Fig. 184., which has a large wire loop, with a coil, to allow the expansion of the limb. The tallies of this type are often made of glass, or porcelain with the name indelibly printed in them. Figure 185. shows a zinc tally, which is secured to the tree by means of a sharp and pointed wire driven into the wood. Some prefer to have two arms to this wire, driving one point on either side of the tree. If galvanized wire is used, these labels will last for many years.
It is very important, when adjusting labels to trees, to be sure that the wire is not twisted tight against the wood. Figure 186 shows the injury that is likely to result from label wires. When a tree is constricted or girdled, it is very liable to be broken off by winds. It should be a rule to attach the label to a limb of minor importance, so that if the wire should injure the part, the loss will not be serious. When the label, Fig. 182, is applied, only the tips of the wire should be twisted together, leaving a large loop for the expansion of the limb.