Signs and labels in the garden


Printed explanatory matter is a thing for Buffalo gardeners, because so many people are on either the Garden Walk, Open Gardens, or one of the fifteen or so other regional tours. Some gardeners are on a combination of all these.

First there is the basic GW sign that indicates a garden is part of the walk and which parts of the garden are open to visitors. There’s also an Open Gardens sign for those 70 or so gardeners who are on that special program. The regional tours have their own signage.

Photo by Johanna Dominguez

Then, there are the labels. Some gardeners avoid laryngitis brought on after answering hundreds of “What’s this?” queries by labeling most of their plants. I know that plant labels are common throughout the gardening world and that many reading this post likely use them. For specialists and collectors, these labels are officially necessary. As daylily and hosta specialists, my friends Mike and Kathy Shadrack regularly host fellow aficionados of these plants and it’s just a given that each hybrid is labeled. For us amateurs, it’s a choice. I choose not to. My garden is not so large that I don’t know where and what everything is—that is, if I ever knew. There are a few things I’ve purchased whose names are forever lost to history. I like talking to my visitors and don’t mind answering the same questions over and over, because these initial exchanges often open up more interesting conversations. I do leave plant and bulb catalogs out when I have a lot of hybrids in bloom from those vendors. My plantings tend to be very full and usually on the tall side; many labels would just be lost—or they’d need to be so obtrusive as to ruin the look of the garden. There are some very tasteful, elegant labels out there (like those above that a friend uses); I respect the work that goes into employing them.

There’s another type of sign, and it’s a type that I use very sparingly. It’s a sign with some kind of message, humorous or serious. For years, I’ve had a small wooden sign against my back fence that says All Alcohol Must be Consumed in the Garden-it’s copied from one I saw at the Erie County Fair (above), meant to keep wine drinkers inside the wine garden (which had no plants). A friend had it copied in etched wood. I’ve seen some cute signs in other gardens—my fave now is the Go Away sign, in a traditional style on distressed steel.

Last year I started to use a sign that has been popping up all over Buffalo. It’s not something I usually do and I only have it up during Garden Walk when hundreds will see it. Some call it the Love is Love sign. I think of it as the In Our Country sign. It expresses how I feel at a time when staying silent is not possible. It’s distributed by Activists of Buffalo and WNY Peace Center (both can be found on Facebook).

Ten years ago, I never would have thought a sign like this would be needed (maybe that was wishful thinking). Now it is important to display it. Visitors often tell me they have the same sign.

Note: signs were photographed for this post, but not placed where they usually stand during Garden Walk.

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Elizabeth Licata

Elizabeth Licata has been a regular writer for  Garden Rant since 2007, after contributing a guest rant about the overuse of American flags in front gardens. She lives and gardens in Buffalo, N.Y., which, far from the frozen wasteland many assume it to be, is a lush paradise of gardens, historic architecture, galleries, museums, theaters, and fun. As editor of Buffalo Spree magazine,  Licata helps keep Western New Yorkers apprised about what is happening in their region. She is also a freelance writer and art curator, who’s been published in Fine Gardening, Horticulture, ArtNews, Art in America, the Village Voice, and many other publications. She does regular radio segments for the local NPR affiliate, WBFO.

Licata is involved with Garden Walk Buffalo, the largest free garden tour in the US and possibly the world, and has written the text for a book about Garden Walk. She has also written and edited several art-related books. Contact Elizabeth: ealicata at


  1. I want one of those signs, but gave not been able to find a sturdy one locally. I guess I’ll have branch out.

  2. While touring the gardens this year my wife and I noticed the political signage everywhere. The signs that are promoting “love” are actually funny to us. The idea behind them is to point out that people who don’t think the way the bearer of the sign does must be hateful people. It’s a kin to apologies that include “I’m sorry I offended your narrow minded little self.” If people are truly trying to demonstrate Love then be nice to each other. Don’t put a sign in your yard that further agitates the situation.
    Just a thought. ❤

    • Some of the responses below have illustrated your point. Writing things such as “get a life” and many of the other reactions reeks of arrogance and self-congratulatory “We Get It”.

      Unfortunately, in my view, this advertisement anywhere: lawn/garden/cubicle at work/bumper sticker on car, all has the effect which preening and outright preaching invariably does – pumping up other self-righteous preachy folks. It also causes dismay, schism, and disconnection with the rest of us who, agree or not, would prefer the best “sign” of all: no words, but acts of kindness, graciousness, and good will.

  3. Phil, you are absolutely right. I’ve been having a ‘discussion’ on the Garden Walk Buffalo Facebook page on this same issue. All I suggested is that people leave their politics inside for the Garden Walk weekend.

  4. Great job politicizing the Garden Walk Buffalo, Liz! You really didn’t need to insert your own little political message in the last two paragraphs of your otherwise potentially interesting article. You should put your political signs in the attic ahead of the Garden Walk so people can actually enjoy the weekend not having to think of the political divisiveness they been subjected to all year.

  5. Love the sign, bravo. We all must stand up and push back. I live in France now, but cannot believe what has happened to my home country. Bill, get a life. Politics is not something separate from life. It is life. Your signs are very valuable, don’t let the haters intimidate you. I would do the same.
    bonnie in provence

  6. Gardeners open their yards to throngs of guests for two days every year. You’re guests in their gardens, benefiting from their hard work and hospitality. They have every right to hang whatever they like in their garden. Whimsical, serious, inspiring, and yes, political. Left, right, center, whatever. It’s their call, not yours. You don’t have to like it. You can disapprove or laugh or whatever you want. That’s your call. But I don’t see how you have the right to dictate what someone chooses to place on their property.

    Now, I happen to agree with the opinions expressed on the sign, so it’s easy for me to defend it. But if a gardener wanted to put, say, a MAGA sign in their yard? I wouldn’t like it. But my approval isn’t needed, and I wouldn’t dream of telling them to take it down just because I don’t agree.

    One last note: does your demand to leave politics out of it go both ways? Are MAGA shirts or caps off limits too?

  7. I got no complaints about the sign; our discussions with visitors were about the garden and plants. I don’t consider it a political sign. And I would hope that the sentiments on the sign would be the opposite of offensive to anyone.

  8. I love these signs! I copied it to use for myself! Let’s stand up for what we believe in! LOVE IS LOVE. Some things are obvious, except to those who don’t want to deal with it. If you’re so offended, leave! If I saw an offensive sign that promoted locking up immigrants, controlling women’s bodies, denying science, advocating a whites only society, devaluing of the lives of black people, disrespecting people with disabilities, cruelty, and hate, I would just leave, and feel pity as well as resentment for the person who holds those views (actually, would any avid gardener actually hold these views?). Just sayin’….

  9. I love that sign.

    I don’t label plants in my garden, but I have two signs that let others know that it’s a Pollinator Garden and Certified Wildlife Garden. I get questions frequently on how to be certified and where to get the signs.

  10. I think the “In Our Country” sign is very very cool, and I’d never seen it before till this post.–I also think this sign is very important. I have a lot of homemade signs in my garden that few people see. One with hand-painted flowers says, “It’s okay to be different.” I have it hung below a crooked spear on an English gate and that spear is painted a different color from the rest.

  11. LOVE the sign. If you know where we can get one, it would be great (I checked the two places you mentioned and no luck…)


  12. I came from Maryland for the garden walk and saw quite a few of the In Our Country signs and I liked seeing them – I did not see them as political but as a sign that spoke the values of the person living in that home.

  13. I see you go by the generally sign-less elegance that I see at Chanticleer Garden. What an amazing place. I’m sure yours is, also. Thanks for sharing.

  14. My friend from New Jersey who came for Garden Walk Buffalo had never seen the sign “In Our America.” She loved it, felt it so symbolized the welcoming spirit she felt in Buffalo, and asked me how she could get one. I am trying to find out where they are available. I can’t understand people who think this sign is political. I am trying to find out where they are available. Supporting “Love” and respecting all groups of under-represented people is “political”? Wow, what has our country come to when “love” is an issue that political parties are divided about?! I am happy to know that most gardeners in Buffalo do seem to agree that “love is love.”

  15. I feel very much like you do about garden signage. I appreciate it when the garden would otherwise be confusing (as in a large garden of Hostas), but otherwise it is too intrusive to enjoy the garden. I absolutely LOVE the ‘LOVE’ sign and now want to have one near the bottom of our driveway so all visitors or passersby see it. I’m nowhere near Buffalo, but I am near Portland, OR in Vancouver, WA. It’s important for me to differentiate myself from the other rhetoric going on right now so hell-bent on dividing this country. I appreciate you sharing your thoughts!

  16. I love the “Love” sign too, but my all time favorite garden sign is posted inside my gazebo. It says, “No weeding during drinking hours.” I wish I could post a photo of it. It’s extremely attractive. As for plant labels, I have garden charts; if I don’t remember what something is when a visitor asks, I look it up on the chart. Of course, keeping the charts up to date is not always a priority!

  17. One might have thought that a beautiful garden was an expression of peace in and of itself but in America concerned citizens must take a stand by expressing that love is love. As business managers say so profoundly, it is what it is.

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