An experiment was launched last week - I shall be reporting back at odd intervals. The results will not have a breathtaking impact on the shape of the world to come but you may still wish to read on. It has come about as I've been doing some tasks in readiness for colder weather. I've bought some dahlias in pots into the greenhouse for winter. I've also finished top dressing my special snowdrops in pots with fresh alpine horticultural grit. What have these tasks have in common you may well ask. The answer is labels and MARKER PENS. I have been checking the labels on each pot of snowdrops and also want to be able to easily identify the dahlias.
Now for more years than I care to remember I've used the same permanent marker pen ie a Pilot Super Colour Marker Extra Fine - permanent type. I first came across them at meetings of the Cheshire and Friends group of the Hardy Plant Society, where members sell their plants at meetings. One of the members sold alpines and also conveniently sold the pens that he used and recommended them. So I tried a pen and was most impressed - it certainly seemed to stand up to the vagaries of the elements, remaining legible for several years. In fact usually the labels snapped well before the ink faded. However the pens have not been as effective recently. Have there been any subtle changes to the formula of the ink? Must contact the manufacturer to ask. Is it because we have had such a copious amount of wet stuff falling from the sky in the last year? Has the local squirrel population developed an anti social habit of label licking? Could there be any other reasons? I must also ask my good friend D. who uses the same pens to see if she has any observations to make.
Matters came to a head when I was top dressing the snowdrops. I noticed that some cryptic notes on labels that I had made using the pen in late winter 2013 were already fading. Bad enough that they my notes were cryptic but cryptic and fading does not inspire much confidence. So the marker experiment was born. As you can see I'm testing out five different writing implements and will be comparing the writing on the labels at regular intervals to see which comes out best. Details are as follows :
- Sharpie fine point permanent marker - I must say that this pen has already failed the test as far as I'm concerned. It does not match up to my definition of a fine point. However it is going to stay in the experiment to test out its permanence factor. Sharpie pens are available quite readily from most stationers. I have just found out that there is an ultra fine point too which is maybe the one I should have gone for.
- Artline 444XF Paint Marker (0.8mm nib)- I'm uncertain how available these are on the high street having bought mine at the Malvern Show. I would like to use the white ink version (black ink is also available) on black labels in all my pots of special snowdrops. I want something that it is designed to last. I do have a Brother garden labeller which would do the trick but it takes more time to set up and print than writing by hand does. Another factor which puts me off going down this road for my snowdrop labels is that the tape used in the labeller is quite expensive especially if you make any mistakes.
- Pilot Super Colour Marker Ultra Fine - I have not managed to find these on the Pilot Pens website but will continue looking and will update the link if I have any joy. I used to be able to buy these pens from a local art shop but they stopped stocking them. My last couple of pens were ordered online from Cult Pens who delivered them most quickly.
- Chinagraph pencil - these have been around for a long time but I've not had any experience of using them. I have however bought plants with labels that have been completed using them and they seem to last well. They can be easily purchased from high street stationers.
- Edding 140 S ohp marker permanent - I first came across mention of this pen on Derry Watkins's Special Plants Nursery website. Derry writes that 'Which? Gardening' did a one year trial in which this came out as the best and most permanent labelling pen. I'm not sure how easy it is to find these pens on the high street. Funnily enough I bought mine from the art shop where I used to get the Pilot pens. They can be ordered online from Derry's website and from other online sources.
The plan to issue a bulletin on the state of each labels health after a suitable period of time. I shall insert them into the same pot as close to each other as possible. In the meantime I would love to hear how you make your mark and what experiences you have had. It might be possible to include some late entries at this stage.
PS The cheapest writing implement is the Chinagraph pencil whilst the pens all came in under £4 at the time of purchase.