Monday, 11 November 2013

Making Your Mark


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 :

  1. 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. 
  2. 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. 
  3. 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. 
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

26 comments:

  1. Very very handy experiment Anna and thanks for sharing this! Some of the labels that we did only last year with supposed to be permanent markers have already faded to nothing and now we're struggling trying to remember the label of some of them. Still deciding here what suitable alternative to go for and your results will be interesting (thinking of going for brother labeler at the moment though).

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    1. The Brother labeler is certainly permanent guys though I'm always slightly worried about making mistakes when I use it as the tape is expensive.

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  2. I shall watch your posts with great interest Anna. I too am frustrated by fading ink on plant labels. I have several Hostas whose names I now do not know. They can be difficult to match up. I have spent a lot of time this summer re-writing labels on my pelargoniums in the greenhouses. I have been using either the Sharpie fine, or Sharpie ultra fine.

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    1. Thanks for your comment Gwen. It's most annoying when the names disappear and you are left guessing and sometimes completely bamboozled.

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  3. As a scientist at heart I'm always intrigued by experiments like this and will watch closely for the results. We're very bad at labelling our plants so maybe once you've reached a conclusion we'll follow your advice :)

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    1. Oh Jenny - my only advice is to label immediately in all all instances otherwise you will spend a lot of time guessing :)

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  4. I use a laundry marker possibly from Pental (am at work and cant remember) it was recommended by the guy from Labels and Things at one of the shows and it has worked well for a couple of years

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    1. Thanks for your comment Helen. Will have to see if I can track that one down.

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  5. I use a Sharpie, and although it isn't the finest point, it does seem to last. I've got a Brother labeller but like you say, it takes too long to set up and the tape is so expensive. I like the white ink on the black labels, it looks very posh.

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    1. Good to read that the Sharpie lasts Jo. Maybe I should have gone for the ultra fine point but did not come across one.

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  6. Can you feel the strength of the heart-felt 'thank you' coming your way?! I am currently using a sharpie, which as you have noted isn't actually sharp at all. It seems to fade on lables made from milk carton plastic, but as I have decided that this is taking saving the environment from being over run with plastic too far - they are almost as useless as wooden lollypop sticks - I am agog. And I am also going to order some long and large plant labels and just accept that I need them. At least I re-use them. Even after they snap they can often be used in one of my small seed trays with lids, where normal labels are too long. Oh dear, I sound really obsessed...

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    1. So it's not just me who thought that the Sharpie did not live up its name. I think that the texture of the milk carton probably would have some effect on the permanence or not of the ink. Yes I tried wooden lollypop sticks too but it was an unmitigated disaster. Wouldn't it be great to find environmentally friendly effective labels Janet?

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  7. I look forward to the results Anna. I have never had much success with labels, although I think it's the labels here, rather than the pens. I'll have to ask for some English ones for Christmas!

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    1. Hopefully Santa will duly oblige Cathy - he's got time to catch the last posting date :)

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  8. I can't stop imagining those squirrels nipping out to ruin your experiment by only licking the better tasting inks :P This is very useful - I'm interested to see how you get on!

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    1. Welcome and thanks for your comment Rozzie. Will issue a bulletin in the new year squirrels permitting :)

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  9. Hopefully this comment won't disappear like the last one! This was a really interesting post and I look forward to the results of your research! As you know I have been changing my labelling recently, having decided that I too prefer a pen to my Brother labeller. Half the problem is having labels that don't break and going from the T labels to 6" flexible (and should be unbreakable) labels should solve that. They are also textured on one side and I suspect this might help the longevity of the writing. I used to use a Sakura Pen-touch for a number of years but this did fade in time and tended to dry out if you paused too long between labels, but I am happy with the Uni Paint Marker I have been using for the last year.

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    1. Looks as if this comment has stuck Cathy - thanks for being so persistent :) I think that I may also have a Uni Paint Marker lurking about. Will look tomorrow and include it too if I can find it.

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  10. Am loving the white on black... hope that one lasts the distance.

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    1. That's my favourite too Jessica - certainly for my pots of snowdrops so I'm keeping my fingers crossed :)

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  11. My comment has just disappeared! Oh dear. A very useful experiment, Anna, and I shall look forward to its outcome. For Alitags labels I use the pen provided but it soon fades and has to be redone. For plastic labels I use Artline Garden Marker and Lingzi Pen (oil based) which are both good, the latter came with metal labels. I'd like to "punch" though for the ultimate professional look, maybe I shall one day :)

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    1. Sorry that you comment had disappeared Annette. I've not come across either the Artliner Garden Marker or the Lingzi pen. Will have to investigate :)

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  12. My comment disappeared too... trying again!

    Great idea, wonder what your results will be. I was recommended a Sharpie, but it's horrible - sharp it isn't, plus it ran out really fast. I'm told it really lasts, though. Been using pencil, and that doesn't. Hmmm...




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    1. Oh no - another disappearing comment - there definitely seem to be gremlins at work Kate. I think that maybe Blogger is having one of its hissy fits launching comments from Wordpress bloggers into cyberspace. Not funny! Sharpies are definitely not sharp but maybe they are long lasting - time will tell. So pencil doesn't last .... oh dear :( - mind you you get a lot of that wet stuff falling from the skies in north Wales.

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  13. I love my Chinagraph pencils. Bought years ago as a green alternative to a highlighter. Never thought about using them for plant labels!

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  14. Thanks for your comment Diana :) I've not used them on plant labels before so it will be interesting to see how they fare over the next few months.

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All your comments are much appreciated and treasured. I wil try to reply to everyone who leaves a comment, but it may take me a few days, especially when I start spending more time in the garden and at the lottie. I know that you will understand :) I am sure that I will also visit your blog if I have not already done so. If you have any specific questions I will either reply to them here or you can email me at : thegreentapestry@gmail.com

Namasté

- Anna.