Pretty Plant Markers
By Jeff Timm, St. Paul, Minnesota
That favorite plant of yours deserves more recognition than a Popsicle stick with black ink spelling out its name. Try making these unique plant markers, which hold a label or a seed packet with bent copper wire set in a decorative base. They're easy to assemble, so let your creativity flow. Decorate them with rocks, glass beads or even seashells. They're also great gifts for friends and relatives, and at $2 apiece, you can make dozens of them.
You've probably got all the tools you'll need around the house to make these markers. A 2-gallon bucket and a wooden spoon are all you need for mixing the mortar. We used a 4- x 8- x 2-inch disposable plastic container as a form, but you could also try a cut-off milk carton or a bread pan. You should also round up a pair of pliers, wire cutters and a utility knife for working with the wire.
For supplies, you'll need a bag of premixed mortar (60 pounds is plenty), a dust mask, a can of nonstick cooking spray, and 12-2 electrical cable with the plastic sheathing stripped off the wires.
For decoration, use rocks, glass beads or seashells—about 1/3 pound of rocks per holder. Craft stores are loaded with materials. We added a latex bonding agent to the mortar. It's not absolutely necessary, but it'll make the mortar stick better to smooth rocks and glass. Buy it from a masonry supplier and follow the directions for mixing.
- Bend the Copper Wire. Hold a dowel 8 inches up from the end of a 5-foot piece of wire folded in half. Wrap the wire around it, forming a loop. Move the dowel over 3-1/2 inches (or the width needed to fit your seed packet) and wrap it again, making a second loop in the opposite direction. Cut the wire off even with the first leg, and bend a 1/2-inch 90-degree turn at the bottom of each leg to anchor it in the mortar.
- Add the Mortar. Mix up the mortar to the consistency of cookie dough, slowly adding water to the dry mix as needed. Mix the mortar thoroughly, let it sit for about 3 minutes, then remix, adding a dash more water if
needed. Coat the plastic form with cooking spray. After filling the container, give it a few quick shakes to settle the mortar. Then form a mound using a spoon or small trowel so it resembles a loaf of baked banana bread.
- Decorate! Now comes the fun part. Push the copper marker into the mortar so the 90-degree bends are about 1/2 inch up from the bottom and centered. If the mortar is too wet to support the wire, have a cup of
coffee and let it stiffen up a little. Now arrange the rocks or beads to your liking. When arranging the rocks, it's best to start at the edges and work toward the center. Embed the decorations at least halfway into the mortar so they're held tight. If you don't like how a rock looks, remove it, rinse it off and reposition. Once you're done with the arrangement, let the marker set for at least 24 hours before removing it from the form.