Guide to Basic Pruning Tools
Be sure you have suitable basic pruning tools on hand for pruning chores all times of the year.
Hedge shears getting the job done.
Pruning trees and shrubs might be the last thing on your mind during the height of the growing season. Hedges, perennials and many shrubs need your attention throughout the year, however, and the time for tree pruning will come long after the garden is done and the harvest put away. Have basic pruning tools on hand, and you'll be set no matter the time of year.
In late winter and early spring, our woody plant compadres call to us through the wind and slush, begging us for a little clipping and sawing before spring arrives and their buds burst in an explosion back to life. But there’s much more to pruning than random whacking; the right touch and proper tools are key to your snipping success.
Four basic tool categories are necessities: hand pruners for the 1⁄2-inch to 1-inch twig range; loppers for the whoppin’ 3-inch branches; hedge shears for all of those bushes, shrubs and hedges during the growing season; and the saw to tackle anything else.
Selecting appropriate tools
The following four tools are essential to achieve consistent results – and they won’t make much of a dent in the pocketbook of even the most frugal gardener.
HAND PRUNERS – These are the tools you’ll use the most. Remember the two types of hand pruners: bypass and anvil. Each cuts in a different way and is designed for specific jobs. As a result, you’ll want to own both and know when to use them during different seasons and growth stages.
Bypass pruners use blades that slide by each other with a scissor-like cutting action. This lets you make clean, quick-healing cuts on healthy bushes, shrubs and plants. Anvil pruners use a straight-edge blade that cuts against a soft metal anvil. They’re designed for trimming dry and woody growth.
What to look for: Look for top-quality construction, including forged steel alloy for bypass pruners and high carbon steel for anvil pruners. Make sure the tool is sized and balanced so it feels comfortable in your hand. It’s a good idea to look for ergonomically designed pruners for maximum comfort and minimum stress on your joints.
Quick Tip: Hand pruners are rated for the maximum diameter of the branch they’re meant to cut – usually 1⁄2 inch to 1 inch. Don’t risk damage to plant and tool by trying to force them through larger material. For this you’ll need a lopper.
LOPPERS – These “grown-up” pruners have longer handles to provide extra reach and leverage for trimming growth as large as 3 inches in diameter. Like hand pruners, loppers are available with bypass or anvil cutting action. You’ll find a variety of sizes available, including designs engineered to multiply your cutting power.
What to look for: On bypass styles, look for forged steel alloy blades that are able to be resharpened, and replaceable blades and anvils on anvil styles. Handles should include comfortable, nonslip grips.