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A rose by any name at all…

Jane Scorer

Jane Scorer

November 4, 2013

Labelling – it should be part of every greenhouse gardener’s routine. All plants should have their own label which is clear, correct and dated. In my head, I do all that. In reality, it is very different, and my greenhouse can be a bizarre place as far as labels are concerned. For instance, there are lots of labels like this  ↘

judeNow, I don’t have any problem reading that at all, in fact it is one of my better labels. It may look as if says ‘shoe’ or even ‘Shop fiz’, but I know it says ‘Jude’! It is a cutting of the English Rose ‘Jude the Obscure’, and is a rooted cutting taken in July.

I am either mean, or thrifty, depending on your point of view, and for some reason, I am extremely parsimonious with my labels, and use them as many times as is humanly possible. This can lead to confusion such as this ↓




A totally useless label, as the writing on the other side is unreadable, and the plant is clearly not a tree peony. I know it is a rose, but haven’t a clue which one until it flowers!


‘Love in a mist ‘?? I can’t ever remember growing ‘Love in a mist’! Why is that label in that pot? Totally bizarre – and I swear nothing in these photos has been moved or changed in any way! Again, the plants are clearly rose cuttings, and again, they will have to remain anonymous until they flower.

The label situation is made even worse by my handwriting, which is bad at best, and at worse, atrocious, especially when written with gardening gloves on.



Ignore the fact that the cutting hasn’t rooted and is slowly dying, and try to read the label. ‘Paul’s Scarlet’ is what that shorthand reads! Honest…

It isn’t that I have no new labels, I have a drawer full of them, and lots in my handy tin, ready to use.


I have big ones, small ones, ones that tie on, ones that stick in the ground, different coloured ones, even, somewhere, some lovely (unused) copper ones. Yet still I feel compelled to get all the use I can from existing ones, before I reach for a brand new virgin label. If you look closely you can make out cobwebs on those labels.

I keep some of them for a LONG time …


This one is 15 years old and it was my mum’s, and it was for a geranium. It is now in a rose cutting pot, with something indecipherable on the other side! Why do I bother ?

Another problem I have is the fading pen. The label is crisp and clear when written, but fades to infuriating squiggles as soon as your back is turned.


For those unfamiliar with fading-pen syndrome, it is ‘Buff Beauty’ – yet another rose.

I also seem to just throw random labels around, especially in the greenhouse…






A label reading ‘Atomic Snowflake ‘is currently lying next to the remains of a courgette plant. It is not in my handwriting, and I would bet it is not a variety of courgette either. My money is on a geranium, circa 1996 !


The label above hardly inspires confidence as I seem to have had a crisis of indecision when I was writing it.



I also get a bit descriptive about some plants, especially if I am unsure of the name or variety.

If plants are given to you by friends, often there is no variety known, and you need to invent your own name for them.




Oh dear ! I wasn’t even sure about this one at the time I took the cutting.


bigtomatoesThere is NO label next to my tomatoes, so I have no idea what variety they are, but I did find the 2 labels in the photo above, lying next to the tomato plant. Needless to say there was no coriander or Californian Wonder peppers anywhere in sight.

The tomatoes themselves are lookin’ good, but will have to remain nameless. I tried 3 new varieties this season and I have a list of them – just haven’t a clue which one is which.

stswithinOccasionally, I get it right ! St Swithins has a label which is easily readable, dated and correct!

Better make the most of it … a rose by any other name and all that !

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10 years ago

Gosh Jane, I squealed with laughter reading your post. I thought I was the only one who reused labels ( and confused labels!)
My husband and I spent a morning planting up one side of a veg bed with various tomato seeds and I labelled every row. However I now have a perfectly straight row of something green, looking remarkably healthy but definitely not tomatoes, growing in the row labelled yellow cherry tomatoes!
Add to that a very mischievous blackbird who insists of pulling out all my labels from my pots where bulbs and tubers are planted. I try to place them back in their correct pots, only to discover when they start growing/flowering that I didn’t get it right – again.

Jane Louise
Jane Louise
10 years ago
Reply to  SpicyRedHead

Our attempts are thwarted at every turn ! I share your pain about mischevous blackbirds , one flew in through the open greenhouse doors, did a fantastic feat of flying and managed to knock over several small pots (plus labels, of course !) before flying back out . I think the whole thing was cunningly pre-planned ! It must be from the same nest as yours !!

Anne Wareham
10 years ago

I think pencil may last best. I used to cut up washing up liquid bottles and use proper labels cut in half…
One of my real hates though – labels in the garden. We need an ap so we can just zap.

Jane Scorer
10 years ago
Reply to  Anne Wareham

Sadly, Anne, I think my problems are too deep- seated to be cured by a pencil . But an app, now that could be the panacea … I would also appreciate a weeding app, a composting app and a bulb planting app. Can it be arranged ?