Of the cutting tools outlined here, hedge shears pose the greatest variety in blades, handle, and use. Available with single action or gear-driven action, shears generally feature blades 7 to 9 inches long and handles 9 to 15 inches long. If evergreens are in need of sculpting, shrubs require containment, or clumps of spent perennials call for a thorough deadheading, grab a pair of hedge shears.
Any plant that has thin branches (1/4 inch or less in diameter) can be sheared. Evergreens that respond well to shearing include boxwood and yew. Thin-limbed shrubs, such as privet and holly also can be sheared. Use shears only on tender new growth; save older, harder stalks for pruners or loppers. Perennials grown in mass plantings, such as coreopsis, lavender, or dianthus, may be sheared after flowering to encourage a second flush.
Serrated and wavy-edge blades catch flyaway branches and hold them closer to the inner part of the blades, where the cutting action is sharpest. Wavy-style handles are easier to grip when shearing overhead. Comfortable grips and durable rubber stops cushion the jarring effect of the blades banging together. Shears with long handles and blades give leverage and help shape large bushes, but they are also heavier and more taxing to use. Smaller models are lighter, easier to tuck into confined spaces, and simpler to control for precision shaping.
Continued on page 3: Long-Handle Loppers