If cost is a factor, you may be able to secure cheap plates at a local
trophy engraving shop. There are companies that specialize in plant tags
and advertise in hort-related journals and such, but are more expensive.
Many botanical gardens and arboreta have two tags per plant. An
accession tag is secured to the plant either by wiring it to a branch or
by nailing it to the trunk. This tag contains taxonomic information, but
more importantly, has information pertaining to when it was introduced to
the collection and a unique accession number, for record-keeping
purposes. The accession tag is typically most important. Informational
tags/markers are often placed at the foot of a plant or mass of the same
shrubs. While containing taxonomic information, these may also indicate
region of nativity, cultural information, etc.
Securing accession tags (with the same dimensions you are looking for) to
the trunk or branch may be better than to a stake, as theft may be a
problem, unfortunately. These will still be accessible to those who look
for them. I would also suggest creating a 'trail-guide' for people to
use, marking the plants in the collection. It is also a good idea to be
consistent in tag-placing (putting all tags at 5' on the west side of the
You may also wish to consult the curator or horticulturist of a local
collection for ideas.
As for the Pachysandra problem: Plant a variety of groundcovers. The
best thing about plant collections is the variety found within them.
Michael S Dosmann
dosmann at iastate.edu
Graduate Research Assistant
Department of Horticulture
Iowa State University