Hartley Magazine

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Pens are my friends

Get to grips with plant labels now and be ready for your spring sowing spectacular says Jean Vernon

Plant labels are the bane of my life, but maybe, just maybe I’ve found the solution

We’ve all been there haven’t we?? You’ve taken the cuttings, sown the seeds, planted the plant and searched around for a label and pen to identify your precious plants for now and eternity. And there’s the problem. Some summer sunshine, some wind and rain and the writing fades to oblivion. The cat digs in the border and flicks the labels into orbit or the lovely rusty shabby chic wooden labels crack, split and rot into the soil. Whichever fate befalls your plant labels the result is the same, planty-no-name is added to the border, the precious tulips are accidentally dig from the ground and the fantastic seed crop you grew this year that you’d love to grow again is completely and utterly unidentifiable.

Label solutions

Of course you can fork out and buy a letter punch and some fab metal labels, or a labelling machine like these from Brother (Brother.co.uk/labelling/garden-and-horticulture) . Great for gardens that need totally permanent labels like those open to the public. But to be honest I just want to scribble the name on something quickly that will be permanent and get on with sowing, growing and taking cuttings.

Image 1 - Oct 2016
Artline garden marker

I’m already in the doghouse for littering the beds and borders with those white plastic lollipop-like labels, they seem to migrate around the garden and end up in the compost heap and even in the wormery, where they sit in stark contrast to the dark black soil. And yet, I do want to know what I’ve sown when and where. And when I write the details carefully on the label I want to be able to read it in a few months or even next year.

The Artline Garden Marker is a great pen for garden labels. The nib is fine so you can write clearly on small labels and still read what you have written. The ink is permanent; it dries quickly and it doesn’t wash off or smudge in the rain. And it lasts! I’ve got some garden labels that still bear their information from several years ago. That in itself can be a problem, as it makes the label less reusable, but you can scour them clean and you can also use the other side and if you only want to name your seedling rows and you grow some things again and again, you can simply reuse your labels year on year.

Living labels

Image 2 - Oct 2016
Artline marker for flower

There’s a new pen in the Artline range. It’s so new that you might not find it in the garden centres yet. If you are a little bit creative or crafty, the new Artline Marker for Flower comes in silver or gold and can be used to actually write on plants. You can collect autumn leaves and write on them and use them as gift labels, place names or messages, or you can write on petals and leaves of plants that you want to give as a gift, or even those in the garden. Think living label. The ink dries instantly and is permanent and very opaque giving a beautiful effect on the chosen material.

How to cheat

Save time this autumn and winter and when you order your seeds from the seed catalogues, spend a wet afternoon writing out the labels for when you sow them. Cut a corner off the seed packet and slip the ready to use label into the packet. If it’s a seed you may make several sowings of, then write a few labels. Your writing will be neater, the labels will be dry and easier to write on and you will be ready to spring into action when your seeds are ready to sow.