The Not So Definitive Guide To Labels

The bane of my life. Well, perhaps not, energy or the lack of it is. Truth to tell I don’t like labels, they fail to add anything to a garden, have zilch visual appeal – even those inordinately pricey slate ones I was given as a gift a few years ago and which are treasured in a drawer in my potting shed workbench –  but given a proneness to collect plants abetted by a tendency to forget the what, when and wheres, labels are an indispensable fact of my gardening life. So here are a few observations.

Not my own label or alpine house sadly. RHS Harlow Carr

White labels are a definite no no. They look like a plant graveyard and, my goodness, I’ve lost enough plants to fill one. They detract from garden or cyclamen. So not for me though, as can be seen, I discovered two remnants on the estate this morning.

Cyclamen coum just emerging

Aluminium labels were meant to be the answer especially when my rather gauche handwriting is aided and abetted by a stylish graphite pencil. It is satisfying to use graphite on metal, therapeutic. Much superior to plastic, even without the distaste one has for the stuff these days. And yet …. I have so many that are bent and twisted even though the writing is still legible enough to read five years since I first bought them. Aluminium is bendy, flimsy, garden strimmers adore them, not cheap and fade into the background. That said, I still use them.

Black Wooden Labels – and I have a box stuffed full of them – were purchased as an environmental effort and Ebay impulse. They look great with a white marker. For a short while. Pretty basic observation really though I missed it – wood rots down and swiftly with it. Total waste of time, marker fluid, money. I haven’t a clue what I planted in Spring and early summer.

Wooden labels, environmentally sound, practically unsound.
Aluminium labels that won’t accept marker pen.

However the prize for the worst purchase ever in this context goes to a box of sturdy Shiny Aluminium Labels able to withstand nuclear detonations but not take marker ink.

So I have settled on the above Black Plastic Labels, 15cm long, 1.7cm wide with Pentel white marker pens, though other brands are available. The pens are not as easy to work with as graphite pencils. Unfortunately graphite does not work on black ….. Crucially the labels are unobtrusive in a garden setting. I can’t vouch for the durability of the ink and a friend has warned me about the chalk in some brands that fades quickly. I’ve not checked that out with Pentel yet. The writing shows no evidence of fading. With neater handwriting than my own they look great in pots, though require an accompanying plant to complete the look.

Photographing snowdrops

Bright, still days are rare in February. I’ve lost count of the times I’ve steadied the camera lens on some exquisite snowdrop only to have the wind gust and the image blur, or it has proven too dark because it’s winter and the flash seems to wash the vitality of the flower away, or the result seems to have lost all its detail, or … So here is a link to a helpful article from Alexandra Campbell that in turn is based on the advice of photographer, Lisa Valder. The article, How to create beautiful photos of snowdrops, was written a year ago and I do wish I had discovered it earlier. It might have saved me many a disappointment. I’ve added Alexandra’s excellent blog to my list on the right.

BLACK+DECKER GWC3600L 36V Lithium Cordless Blower Vacuum

Product reviews seem the prerogative of YouTube but I’ll do my best. I purchased the lithium powered Black & Decker Garden Vac and Blower yesterday, tried it this morning, returned it this afternoon. It is rare in life that one purchases something totally useless but I’ve managed it. Well, not totally useless – it blew the dried beech leaves out of my garage well enough though the grilled suction inlet is impossible for a right handed person to use without it adhering to your right leg. Sucking small dry leaves up and chewing them up was not quite so good however but a triumph compared with the real world.

The damp beech leaves on the lawn proved an impossible obstacle for the blower. It shuddered when confronted by larger maple leaves. I switched to the sucking tool. Big problem. The guard over the inlet would not open unless helped on its way with a screwdriver. Eventually it was removed and the nozzle for the vac part of the tool attached. Ten seconds in and a very mediocre twig jammed it. The screwdriver came in useful again but other than unscrewing the whole device it was impossible to extricate the twig and leaves to full satisfaction. It never recovered to tell the truth. I tried a second fully charged battery but no joy. And that guard stubbornly remained tuck. Even the guy in the store couldn’t pull it out as per instructions. I offered him my screwdriver.

Money back! I have some excellent battery powered garden equipment from Black & Decker. This was not in the same league. I’ll review other devices shortly. More positively I promise.

The kit straight out of the box and assembled easily enough.
The blower aimed rather stupidly at the hedge but I was holding the camera at the time.
The guard that should come off easily (to judge from one YouTube review) when pressing the button at the top of the photo. It didn’t.
The battery is one of two I have already. Very light and efficient though expensive to purchase on its own.
Power select. Well it works but the highest setting is inadequate for wet leaves!
With the help of my screwdriver I removed the guard. The larger suction nozzle connects to this.
And here is said attachment. The collection bag is underneath and there can be spied my trusty and very necessary screwdriver. 
The handle at the top is used to wield the vac when the bag is attached. (It never got full.)
All attached and ship shape I hoped.
And here we are in action. The leaves don’t look insurmountable do they.
Two batteries, one attached to charger.