Ah, the holy grail of gardeners: all we want is a plant label that is permanent. And cheap.
Permanent as in "won't fade, will remain legible for months/years" and cheap as in "yes, we could get those lovely engraved plastic ones but they cost a fortune and I'm only labelling my seedlings here."
I've tried everything over the years: different types of felt pen, so-called permanent markers (they fade), laundry markers (supposedly washable with hot water and detergents, but can't cope with being outside), pull-the-string wax pencils (hard to write neatly and they fade, anyway) and pencil: pencil was the best, especially if you can get an old fashioned "soft" one marked 2B or, better, 4B (resists urge to quote from Hamlet).
Soft pencil doesn't fade at all, and will last for years, so I thought they were going to be ideal - right up until the first time you try to wipe off the mud so you can read it, whereupon it smears all across the label and become totally illegible.
At least with pencil, you can rub it off and re-use the labels... but it's not permanent.
Last week I found these in Wilko, my local cheapy-shop:
Oho! I thought. "Long life labels" eh?
It says "create attractive long-lasting labels that will not fade, engrave with the scriber to expose the white colour beneath."
Ooh, ooh, excitement: at last, a cheap version of those expensive engraved ones.
On the back it has an illustration of someone writing on the label in flowing, elegant italic script.
Looks easy enough, I thought!
I'll have a go, I thought!
Here's my first attempt: Peony kavachensis, it's supposed to say.
I don't know what your standards of penmanship are, but to me this looks as though it were done by a five year old.
And it was really hard work!
Here's my second attempt: using the far end of the same label, and writing in small letters to see if it was any easier, or any less amateur looking.
Ummm - no.
It looks dreadful.
I sought advice from my PGG colleagues (Professional Gardeners' Guild): surely someone must have found a way to use them.
One said "try heating up the tip of the scriber" and that did make it easier to get through the black coating, but only for a couple of seconds, and it made a really, really fine line: and I want big bold clear easy-read lettering.
I tried using a stencil, but the smallest I could find was 10mm high, which is the full width of the label, so they didn't fit on the label - which is, I have to say, a bit on the mean and scrimpy side, size-wise.
Alas, that holy grail is still out of reach...and it's back to the pencil.