We have seen the light…and it is a laser.

For 35 years, JLBG has used white plastic garden tags to label all 27,000+ taxa of plants in the gardens at JLBG. Although, those tags have been functional, they are far too easy to become hidden and then crushed underfoot. Several years ago, we switched to adhesive computer generated tags which were attached to the plastic tags. Although we were promised that these would last 3-5 years, those years turned out to be months, significantly ramping up our labor costs to keep the labels readable. Fortunately, that’s all changing with our recent purchase of our first laser engraver, which will take over the tag making duties.

We’ve actually had the laser for eight months, but it’s taken us that long to get in installed, wired, vented, and speaking coherently with our plant inventory database. After quite a bit of trial and error, we officially started printing garden labels this week.

We’re not sure how many tags we’ll get printed and stuck by fall open house, but we hope you enjoy the new tags, which should be much easier to read and to locate in the garden.

13 thoughts on “We have seen the light…and it is a laser.”

  1. It would be wonderful to actually have tags that are legible and can be photographed for future research. Thank you for making the effort and hopefully paying a way for us to get something we can eventually use in our own gardens

  2. I assume that this system is too expensive for crazy home gardeners like me. Could you give us an idea of the cost for the machine and label materials?

    1. Well, that depends. Laser engravers are divided into two groups, water-cooled and air-cooled. Air-cooled are safer, lasts longer, and more expensive. Water-cooled lasers are mostly made in China and imported into the US. Some are “enhanced” once they arrive in the US, and include US support. These are typically in the $k-$8k range, while the low-end Chinese machines can be purchased for less than $3k. Higher end, air-cooled machines usually run from $12k to $24k, depending on the bells and whistles. It took us nearly 6 months of research before we made our selection. Unless you are a computer guru, I would never purchase a unit without really good customer serivce support. With laser engravers, you sure get what you pay for.

  3. Looks great!

    Can we ask what brand/model/software/materials you went with in the end?

    Looking to do something similar but looking at a Trotec Speedy 100 or a Gravograph thingy. Not even sure what type of material to etch on yet!

  4. Barbara R Hall

    I just ran across this interesting article again and noticed the QR code on the label. I’m still trying to figure out the features on my Smart Phone, but I think that it is supposed to be able to read at least some QR codes. While visiting JLBG, if I use my phone to scan the QR code on a plant label, what information (if any) should I be able to access or is this code just for your internal JLBG usage?

    1. Right now, the QR codes take you to a landing page. Eventually, each code will take you to resource information about each plant, but this is a massive labor cost to make that happen, so we don’t have a time frame for that.

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