There are two points worth discussing, the labels and writing media itself, and the original question, about making maps of in some way recording the inhabitants of planters and troughs without littering them with unsightly labels. This post is to address the actual labels and long life to legibility.
I have found the best and most affordable writing instrument is #2 pencil. Over the years, I have used vinyl "pot stake" labels that I buy mail order from a company in Texas, USA. They worked well because they maintain flexibility for their lifetime, never becoming brittle. They were available in several colors, but the darker color green worked best, as pencil would fade less on the green labels than on the white ones. They were of a size that could be cut in half, to double the investment mileage; shown are some in their original uncut shape, and others that have been cut in half. I ran out of the green ones, and started using white ones of the same style. Since then I ran out of these labels entirely, now using a different type of plastic label... these work except for becoming brittle much more quickly... must place an order to get another bulk shipment of these to last another 20 years... their minimum order is a certain number of thousands of labels.
What's interesting is, I brought in some original labels to remake them with a fresh label. See two labels shown at the bottom, the dark green one is still legible after 19 YEARS! The white label below is the replacement. Pencil on a matte plastic or vinyl label works, easily for a decade or more, never found an ink pen that was as reliable.
Massachusetts, USA, near the New Hampshire border USDA Zone 5
antennaria at aol.com
I have some lovely labels that I mailed ordered from Wells and Winter (www.wellsandwinter.co.uk). I got 150 of them and admit I haven't used very many yet because I'm afraid a fancy label may cause immediate demise of the labelee. I label the front side with a Deco Color writer from Michael's and the back with pencil. A friend has been using them for several years and says they are quite durable. You can push them into the soil so only the top sticks up for maximum aesthetics. I tried the Everlast labels and my rakes caught on the two prongs so I considered them more hassle than they were worth. I think they only charged me a couple of extra pounds for shipping from Great Britain. The service was very prompt and cordial. When I run through this lot I'll probably order more.
Jan Jeddeloh, Portland, Oregon, USA, Zone 8. Rainy winters (40 inches or 1 meter) and pleasant dry summers which don't start until July most years!
A chapter member here uses four inch metal (zinc?) label stakes that she engraves with an inexpensive engraver. Lettering can be just as small as a pen. Dirt collects in the engraving, adding a natural "ink" that makes it easier to read. She's presently working on getting a few thousand for some of us in the Chapter. I believe they come from a company in New Zealand.
Another cuts up clear plexiglass to the size stake he wants, and then attaches a label made by his Brother brand label maker with UV and weather resistant clear tape. Very spiffy, and invisible until one gets close up.
I still use cut up window binds. Since I work at Home Depot, I periodically raid the wasted basket below the blinds cutting machine. If one can deal with the short 2 or 2.5 inch lengths, there is usually a ready, free supply. You can get them cut to whatever size you want at any Home Depot (or the like) on their blind cutting machine. That way you will always have nice rounded corners on the labels. A pencil or a paint pen works best on blinds, although on metal blinds, the paint pen lasts longer. Using black blinds and a white paint pen gives a different look.
I used to map my gardens every fall, but have given up. But, I do try to keep an up to date list of what is in which garden or trough (merely by updating my master spread sheet).
Rick Rodich zone 4a. Annual precipitation ~24 inches
near Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA
Cool, just look at all those labels, the recycling of waste materials is terrific. The clear plexiglass ones sounds like an interesting, near invisible approach. Yesterday I was planting stuff bought as a NARGS seedling sale, must have gone through 50 labels (I double label every plant), so I tend to dismiss label techniques that are too much work.
I have found that the best solution is an electronic labelling system. I take pictures of complex areas of the rock garden and annotate the images with the plant names. The annotations can be done in PowerPoint or even more easily with the Preview program that is part of the OS with Apple Macs. The images are dated which provides useful historical information on plant growth (and losses). This system is especially useful for trough and tufa plantings. When I am planting I take notes of the plant locations and transfer the names to the images later.
For garden use I print the annotated images on letter size paper and put them in plastic sleeves in a 3-ring binder. Here are a few samples.
From the Wet Coast of British Columbia, Canada
Feature your favourite hikes at:www.mountainflora.ca
Clever, clever, clever!!! Very impressed David.
Cliff Booker A.K.A. Ranunculus
On the moors in Lancashire, U.K.
Usually wet, often windy, sometimes cold ... and that's just me!
I also take photos as "maps" and write on the plant names, but have not got to the point of annotating them on the computer. I hope you don't mind me asking you some questions about that, David (or other Mac users)?
Do you also use iPhoto? How do you open a photo that is in iPhoto using Preview? (An eye-rollingly dumb question to all the Mac lovers out there, no doubt, but I find many things about Macs completely baffling and incomprehensible.)
I am able to open other photos, that are not in iPhoto, and can see how Preview could be used to do annotations, however. But what do you have to do to activate the "Preview/Tools/Annotate" function? All tabs under "Annotate" are currently greyed-out... ?? Edit: Oops, never mind. (Evidently, "Annotate" would not function straight from the menu at the top of the page, but had to be moved to the toolbar in order to be activated... Beats me.
Calgary, Alberta, Canada - Zone 3
-30 C to +30 C (rarely!); elevation ~1130m; annual precipitation ~40 cm
To use Preview you first have to export the photos from iPhoto using the File/Export command. I save the images to a folder called Plant Labels. To open them in Preview you can use the File/Open command or just double click on them from the Finder.
Once in Preview click on the Annotate button and a tool bar menu comes up. The fourth item along is a Text Box. Click on that and then click anywhere in the image and start typing. The first item in the tool bar menu is an arrow so you can add arrows as well by I don't usually bother. You can move the text boxes around by clicking and dragging to get them in the best location after you have typed in the plant name.
There is a catch using Preview. Once you Save the annotated image you cannot change the annotations. It saves the image as a new jpeg. You can add more annotations after you save but not delete or move the previous ones. PowerPoint is more flexible but is otherwise a bit more of a hassle to use than Preview. You can get PowerPoint for Mac and it interchanges with Windows PowerPoint perfectly.
Ah, yes. That makes perfect sense - thanks for the explanation. I do have the "Office for Macs" version of Powerpoint on this iMac, and am familiar with the program from my work PC, so that's what I'll use (given the strange uneditability of Preview files). Terrific ideas, David! Thank you!