Saturday, 14 March 2015

'A rose by any name at all ...' Part 2


Scientists and inventors, pin your ears back and listen to a bit of advice! Never mind splitting the atom and pottering about with the Hadron Collider, your time would be better spent inventing a plant label which DOES NOT FADE. I've tried, God knows I've tried, over the years, to find one which lasts more than a few weeks in the garden, but to no avail.

So far I have tried plastic labels with black permanent pen and pencil;



lollipop sticks with pen/ pencil; copper labels with an indenting tool (see post header); red permanent pen ;


black labels etched with a little pointy tool ...



the list goes on and on.

And do you know something ?

 NOTHING WORKED. They all end up looking like this ...


or this ...


A few months after I have carefully written my label, it is an indecipherable blur and I haven't a clue what I planted. Although I can recognise most of the plants I grow by their leaves I need to know the names of the variety. I forget which rose I have planted where, and I need to know all their names.

I have posted about it before, and if you wish to find out more, here is the link ...

'A rose by any name at all ...'

For christmas I asked Santa for a labelling machine, to see if it would solve the knotty problem of the fading label once and for all. I did my research beforehand, although, to be honest, there weren't many garden labelling machines to choose from. I chose a 'Brother GL-H105 Professional garden Labeller' and it cost around £30.

As Spring has now sprung, and I am sowing and potting on for the Olympic Team, I have just started using it. I can't predict how the labels will fare over time, but I am already pleased with the results, as the labels look much more professional than my handwritten ones.





By the way, this is not a sponsored post in any way, it is just me trying out a new gizmo, and being totally honest about what I discover.

The machine is a good size for a handheld, small enough to hold comfortably, yet large enough for the buttons to be used easily. The keyboard is set out alphabetically, which will slow down those used to a QWERTY keyboard. However, it will not be used for typing a novel, so I guess it matters not. It needs 6 AAA batteries, which, of course didn't come with it, so I had to go out and buy those first, before I could use it.

The machine works by printing labels on an adhesive tape, which can then be put onto any dry surface . In my case, I will be sticking them on plastic plant labels but I guess there are lots of ways to use them in the garden, greenhouse or shed. There is a promise that the labels will not fade over time, that they are waterproof, and resistant to frost, heat, chemicals, humidity and abrasion.



The machine is reasonably intuitive to use. The cassette containing the label tape needs to be snapped into place, and the batteries fitted. That's all you need to do before you are ready to roll!



 There is a limited choice of  font sizes, and letters can be typed in lower case, upper case or italics. I  briefly tried the main choices to  be able to make comparisons, but there is probably lots I haven't discovered yet.

Below, you can see the fonts and sizes I tried out. I discounted the 'italics' font immediately as the spacings between the letters were quite wide, which meant that each label used up quite a lot of tape. As the tapes are quite expensive, it makes good sense to use as little as possible for every label. Label length and width can be adjusted, so I have set them to be as small as possible to preserve tape, as each new tape cassette retails at about £16, (although can be bought discounted for around £7) . I shall be interested to see how long each one lasts.


'Blue Ensign' is printing on the 'small' font setting and in lower case. To my mind , this is a little too small, and the letters do not have enough impact. There is a relatively large amount of blank tape.

'Sexy Rexy' (it's a rose, honest !!) is in Medium font, and in the words of Goldilocks, it is "Just right"! The font size is easily readable and pleasing to the eye.

'Ascott rainbow' (yes, I know it looks as if the double 't' is a spelling error, but that is how it appears on the label the plant came with !) is in Large font. It is very acceptable, but uses more tape than the Middle sized one.

'Musa basjoo' is in italics,and, to my mind, takes up far too much tape.

So, for most labels I write I will be using the Medium sized font, in capital letters. There are other choices like 'outline' and 'shadow' but I just want a plain, easily readable label, at the end of the day.


When the label is written , it can be printed immediately, 



and the tape is then cut by a fiendishly tiny guillotine, hidden away in the innards of the machine, which jumps into action when the white button (bearing the scissor icon) is depressed.



When the label has printed out, the adhesive backing can then be removed. Like everything else, there is a definite knack to this, as the backing paper is split into two, horizontally, so bending the label slightly makes it easier to peel the backing paper off. I am attempting to do this one-handed purely for the purposes of this blog, as I was taking one handed photos with the other hand! I'm sure it is much easier using two hands !


This label was about the tenth that I attempted, and it is the neatest and most professional. I am pleased with the way it looks, and will be watching like a hawk to see if there is any fading over the coming months and years. If there is, I want my money back. Every last penny!

I won't be using my Labeller for every label from now on as it would be too expensive and time consuming. I will use it for labels on special garden plants, which I need to last for ever. I will make one for all my roses, and for any plant where I really need to know the variety. I will not be printing labels for any annuals, as these are only needed for a few short months. I think the Labeller will be invaluable for Open gardens days, when people love to know the names/ varieties of plants they see in situ. I can go round beforehand to ensure that all main plants are labelled.

Overall, I give it a definite thumbs up for ease of use and appearance of the labels, but the jury is out on the main issue of fading.









39 comments:

  1. I look forward to seeing how lasting you find they are. They certainly look great. However, given the price I agree with you that it is not for every plant in the garden.

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    1. Hi Alain, I think they will be reserved for permanent special garden plants , where a long lasting label is needed.

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  2. I'm liking the sound of this Jane and yes you're right, the main issue and test would be if it really resists fading with constant exposure to sum and other elements. We shall all have to wait and see.

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    1. I can certainly see it would work well for people coming to your Open Garden days. I hope it works as well as it looks at present - those labels are very nice :)

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    2. Hi M & G, at least I can read what the label says ! I struggle to read some of my own as they are often written with gloves on, in a howling gale somewhere down the garden! My GP would be proud of me !

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    3. Hi Amy, they do look much more professional than handwritten ones and I guess they would be great for a plant stall at Open Days.

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  3. Well that looks pretty cool. Good luck, I'm sure it will work well.
    Do you think the Hadron Collider does label etching as a sideline?

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    1. Hi Jessica, if they don't do it ... they should ! Then they wouldn't need additional funding as all their revenue would be generated by selling the amazing non- fading label. Shall we pitch it to them ?

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  4. "Will not fade over time!!!" HAHAHAHAHA!!! I'm sorry, Jane, but I've been there and seen that. They indeed don't fade, but they do crack, and peel and drop off....in about a year or so, less here in the hot sunshine. I share your search for the perfect label, however, and someday, surely, science will prevail. If we can make plastic bottles that last thousands of years in landfills, surely we can get a label to last!

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    1. Professor Roush you have in one sentence destroyed all my dreams ! There I was, thinking the future lies with a Garden labelling machine, only to have that future crushed! Cracking, peeling and dropping off is even worse than gentle fading! I can only hope that they fare better under the weak sun of the uk , as we have very few days where it would count as 'hot'!!

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  5. Those labels say capable, confident, organised to me. Very impressive. Your garden visitors will love you for it.

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  6. Hi Susan, 'capable' 'confident' and 'organised' eh? All the things I yearn to be! This garden labeller could change lives !! Unless, as Professor Roush says, they will crack, peel and drop off within a year... what would that say !!

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  7. It will be interesting ti see whether the label peels off after a time.
    Our problem is labels that become fragile and shatter

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    1. Hi Sue, VP's comment below is cheering as those labels are still going strong after 3 years without fading or peeling off. I have problems with shattering labels too.

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  8. I can happily report that the Brother labels I made when I got mine over 3 years ago haven't faded, nor have they come unstuck.

    Apart from that, thick B pencil's always been the best performer for me.

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  9. Thanks VP, that is cheering news after Professor Roush dealt out some stark reality! Do you still use yours regularly, or does the novelty wear off. I want to make labels for everything at the moment ...

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    1. I'm still making some, but only when it's a new sowing or cutting. I can re-use the older ones for repeat sowings, cuttings etc :)

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  10. What a clever gadget, I'll be interested to see how long the labels last for you.

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  11. Hi Su, watch this space! I hope they last for years and years but maybe that is not realistic!

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  12. I can confirm VP's experience of the longevity of using labels made with the Brother labeller Jane. I use them for some of my pots of special snowdrops. Having said that the tape is too expensive for everyday use e.g seed sowing. Have you tried an Edding 140S overhead marker pen? More than a year on and exposed to the elements but still going strong :)

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    1. Hi Anna, I haven't heard of the Edding pen, but I will try and get one as it sounds just the jobkins! A year is more than my so-called permanent markers can manage !

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  13. I will be watching with interest Jane - particularly on how well it works outdoors. This year I am trying to get on top of bulbs and where abouts in the garden they are, time is slowly running out on me though!
    You've made a good start already, best of luck with them all.

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    1. Hi Angie, how are you recording it, are you mapping their whereabouts ?
      Hope you will be joining in the 'Plantfest' meme , and buying a plant to post about every month.

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  14. I hope this method works for you, it can be so frustrating when labels are illegible!

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  15. Hi Pauline, time will tell ! It is going well so far but it is early days.

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  16. I was just discussing this issue with some family members the other day. Even if we do find the perfect label, it will probably be stolen! (Maybe that's too pessimistic.) Anyway (tee hee), good luck. Perhaps your new method will work perfectly, and then we'll all be running out for these labeling machines.

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    1. Hi P.P. - nobody would pinch my grotty hand written labels, and that is for sure!! It will be interesting to see how the labels stand the test of time.

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  17. I like how the coleus seeds grow and the labeling machine works. Thank you for sharing.

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    1. Hi Endah and thank you for your comments.

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  18. What a useful meme Jane, I am particularly keen to get good labels for my snowdrops. I have several that I bought in the past and can' t identify. I think this is worth investing in. Mind you, even better would be a label that didn' t get moved about the garden by the wildlife.I don' t know who the culprits are and why they do it, but my labels always walk.

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  19. Hi Chloris - labels must end up in the same vortex which houses all the odd socks ! Wish we could find out where they all are!

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  20. I bought a labeller quite a few years ago, but I don't use it very often as the tape is so expensive. I've found that Sharpie pens work well for me.

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    1. Hi Jo, a couple of people have said Sharpie pens are good. I was wondering about the cost of the tape, and I guess only precious stuff is labelled using it. What do you use yours for Jo ?

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  21. Hi Jane,
    I'm late, as usual. I love the printer! Thanks so much for the lesson in using it. The label is perfect.....I can hardly wait to see how they hold up!

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    1. Hi Flower Freak and thanks for your comments. There are conflicting views on how they hold up over time, so I too am waiting and watching with interest !

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  22. Couldn't agree with you more Jane, plant labels and "non-permanent" permanent markers are a constant moan. I have seen a review of a similar machine to yours where the reviewer stated that he still had serviceable labels from its predecessor from 5 years previous. If anything it would be the adhesive life which would bother me rather than actual fading and I know that some labels are available with extra strong adhesive but naturally at greater cost. I do hope you share your experience of your new machine in the future.

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    1. Hi Rick, that is interesting - 5 years ! Wow! Quite a success then! I wonder if the adhesive is sensitive to extreme temperatures, in which case, we should be ok here in the uk for the most part.

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  23. This is brilliant! I used a labeling machine at work once and absolutely loved it. I'm going to bet the labels stand up quite well. I never would have thought of this and now I'm thinking I need to buy one too. Most of my labels end up breaking (wood) or fading so badly in the sun they're unreadable. Like Rick, I wonder if the only problem will be the adhesive. Looking forward to an update to see how this goes.

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  24. I have had the same issue with fading labels and so will be keen to hear how your label maker works for you. Based on the Professor's comments they may peel or crack. Fingers crossed they don't!

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I really welcome comments and have learned much from them, over the years of leaning over the virtual garden gate ...