Tools of the Garden Trade, part 1- Hand pruning tools

Double-Cut Clipper
aka "Italian Pattern"

After gardening for more than 30 years, I've seen a  LOT of garden tools, and used more of them than I really needed to. As with so many venues in life, skills and good planning are more important than the tools, but I will concede that good and correct tools are still important. I have witnessed many gardeners attempt to prune a tree with  a hand clippers, only to acquire a broken clipper, badly cut tree, and sore hands. I've also seen people use a chainsaw or string trimmer to trim a hedge, a lawn mower to trim annuals, a machete to to divide Crinum lilies, and on and on. The old sage advice of "the right tool for the job" is still true. As with many tools, there is a huge variety of garden and landscape tools to choose from. Each vendor states they have the "best" tool for every job, and sound, objective advice is getting harder and harder to come by. So how does a gardener choose the tool for the job ? Here are some tips for choosing the tool for your needs.

classic style of bypass pruner

anvil pruner

There are several criteria for choosing tools for any job, whether it is building a house, cutting down a tree, or pruning a rose bush. This blog concerns hand pruning tools, and there certainly are a lot to choose from. The first and likely most important criterion for a hand tool is that it fits your hands i.e. that is comfortable to hold and neither too big or too small for the intended job. The second criterion is the right size tool for the job e.g. a medium hand clipper for pruning roses, a large hand clipper for pruning a hedge with hard wood, a small lopper for branches or stems more than 1/2 inch diameter, and a long-handled lopper for branches up to 1 -1/4 inch diameter. The third criterion for choosing a hand tool is the cost-to-use ratio. If you use a tool a few times per year, you can get away with a lighter weight, lower cost tool. Pruning or cutting plants every day or on a commercial scale requires the heavier duty, more expensive tools. Last, consider the material to be trimmed: if the tree has exceptionally hard wood, or the material to be trimmed has abrasive characters to it ( palm trunks, bamboo, etc). then consider a top-end tool.

loppers come in a wide range of lengths
a size to fit your needs

Also consider your own strength and abilities. A slightly built person with petite hands will need a tool built for that gardener. Also consider that sometimes an oversized tool can lend the leverage need to muscle through a tough task as long as you can use the tool easily. A long handled lopper can exert a great deal of force on a small branch even with a slightly built person at the controls. Hand clippers, also called pruners, secateurs, snips, Pradines, (and a range of other names,) come in several basic styles: bypass, anvil, and double-cut. They cut differently, and some very fibrous plants require a bypass pruner to cut through the fibers, whereas some softer woods can be cut effectively with anvil pruners. 

short loppers
good for high-leverage, close-quarter jobs
      Many manufacturers cite a tool's ability to cut through ridiculously hard materials, or cite feats of engineering prowess, courtesy of the exotic materials and metals in the tool. In the end analysis, find a tool that fits your hands and your strength, will cut the material effectively, and one that you can afford. Some of the best European brands can set you back $ 100 for a hand clipper, over $ 200 for a a large lopper. For my own needs, I have several different clippers, one short lopper, and one 36 inch long-handle lopper for really hard-wooded trees. I was given a double-cut pruner 10 years ago, and it works great on cutting through seed shells or for large diameter branches, not so well on roses or palms. Sharp-point clippers are used for pruning roots and flower stems on my orchids, and the classic bypass "Corona" clipper is useful for everything else. I used to use a professional German 9 inch clipper, but it was so heavy, and the handles spread so far apart that my paws couldn't work with it anymore. I gave it to a friend with bear-paw sized hands, and he loves it.

There are many makers of pruning tools such as ARS, Felco, Corona, Sandvik, Bahco, Tramontina, Stihl, Stanley, and of course, Craftsman /Sears. There are numerous others, but the basic message is still finding the right tool for your needs, budget, and project. Stay away from the miracle gadgets for now, and stick with the tried and true tools. The fancy battery-operated clippers, ratcheting gizmos, and plastic-handled long reach pruners all work to a degree, but longevity is not in their pedigree.

Craig Morell
Pinecrest Gardens        

Straight -nose clipper
aka fruit or grape shears


1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing great information with us.I was seeking to know about best garden tools and I found your article.You told very clearly that I easy to understood.