Monday, April 9, 2018

Painted Garden Markers for Trees, Shrubs, and Large Plants

This post was prepared in collaboration with our partner blog Green in Real Life.  Crafting is somewhat on hold around here as things are packed up and prepped for moving, with the exception of a few last minute functional DIYs like these awesome plant markers.  We have a gorgeous garden with lots of edible perennial plantings (so sad I won't get to enjoy them!), and to help the new owners know what's what for care and future snacking, pretty new plant tags were in order.

I used my Cricut to make custom templates for the plant names, but if you don't have a computer-controlled cutter or feel like doing something different you can also make markers using simple alphabet stencils of a suitable size or freehand (in which case, you are awesome - my painting wouldn't make the cut!). It used to drive me crazy when DIY posts only suited people with cutting machines, so even though I am now a very happy Cricut owner, I will still try to ensure that the DIY posts we share here on our blog have variations that work for people crafting without cutters.

To make your own similar tags, you will need a cutter, vinyl, tools, and transfer tape (or other suitable template as noted above), wood and basic tools, suitable paints, and string for attaching the finished tags (if using as hang tags). I used homemade t-shirt yarn. It's great for gentle use on plant ties: soft, slightly stretchy, easy to use, and gentle on plants.  Scrap materials to protect your surfaces whilst painting are always handy, too! I used a box as my "paint booth". :)  I opted for spray paint to get great coverage with thin coats, and used a white on grey scheme. The grey is similar to our house trim but also blends beautifully into the garden.  The black-on-white of the template tags looks awesome - sleek and sharp - but the white would be way too dominant for what I envisioned for our garden. A lesson learned when white t-shirt yarn was used on tree supports. Drove me crazy until I eventually replaced it!

Since these tags were made for large perennial plantings, I wanted something that would stand up to our wet weather and strong UV, hence full paint instead of outdoor vinyl, but you could easily skip the overpainting and adapt this DIY for outdoor vinyl or top coat clear over general-use vinyl. In fact, I loved the finished look so much that I did the latter for some smaller plant marker tags - details (and a few lessons learned...) next week!

  • Prepare wooden tags of a suitable size. I used some ting scraps of wood from the workshop. Not the nicest/smoothest, but free and perfect once painted! You can add the holes now or post transfer - either is fine, as long as it's before you paint the top colours so that the holes are weather sealed.
  • Paint one side of the tags in the colour you would like to use for the finished letters and allow to dry. Follow the instructions and safety precautions for your chosen product. Ensure all of your chosen products are compatible.
  • Create your lettering templates. I used Adobe InDesign to make mine and imported it as a single image (easy to size perfectly), but you can easily import from another program as a jpg or png (example here), or just create the typography directly in Cricut Design Space (example here). Tip: The smaller the text, the harder to weed!  I love the finished look of my variety names alongside the larger cursive plant titles, but it was slow and painful weeding work and again when removing post-paint.
  • If using custom vinyl to create your template, as shown, cut on the machine then separate for to weed the excess material away from the text template. Patience...  Use your preferred transfer tape (I use clear peel and stick laminate instead) to transfer the templates onto the prepared tag bases. Rub to burnish firmly into place to avoid lifting or bleeding.
  • Apply a thin coat of the same colour paint as your base letters over the top to seal the edges and reduce the risk of bleeding.
  • Based upon the recoat times for your chosen paint products, apply thin even layers of top colour paint incrementally to both sides of your tags. Allow to dry.
  • Carefully peel away the template vinyl to reveal the lettering.  
  • If you want/need to apply a compatible clear coat (optional) do so and allow to dry thoroughly before use.

The double drilled holes in my tags make it easy to feed a strand of string (I used t-shirt yarn) through the tags for secure attachment. The double tie points hold the tags securely in position without being battered about by winds. The tags combined with stretchy t-shirt yarn work perfectly to hold securely but gently around larger trees but also onto smaller shrubs or the supporting stakes for brambles or climbers. I am absolutely smitten with the tags and will definitely be making some similar tags for the new garden! As mentioned above, I loved the finished look so much that I tried a different approach with vinyl and clear coat to make matching small plant marker tags - details and lessons learned next week!

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