Great Pruning Tools

Primed for pruning? Grab the right tool before you start.
Hand Pruners
Look for sharp, tightly aligned
blades with smoothly functioning

Hand pruners are lighter and more maneuverable than either loppers or shears. They are also the tool used most often for making precision snips, thinning out unwanted branches, and reaching places other tools can't. Pruners can cut soft green wood up to 3/4 inch in diameter and hard old wood up to 1/2 inch across. Each type of pruner -- bypass and anvil -- has its advantages.

Bypass Pruner

Bypass Pruner

This pruner uses a scissoring action: A curved cutting blade severs stems as it passes the base. Bypass pruners are best used on green and growing stems. Use them to thin shrubs such as dogwood, forsythia, lilac, Deutzia, and mock orange in spring; to perform maintenance pruning in summer on shrubs such as Potentilla and Spiraea; and to trim woody perennials, roses, and flowers.

Anvil Pruner

Anvil Pruner

This pruner is equipped with a wedge-shape top blade and uses a splitting action. Anvil pruners are ideal for pruning dry branches and stems. In spring, thin out old growth on hydrangea, elderberry, butterfly bush, and other woody-stem shrubs. Prune away dead growth on roses in early spring. In late spring, prune half of the candles (new growth) on pines to promote bushiness. Prune yews in late summer.

How to Choose

Choose a bypass pruner if the landscape is young. If the landscape is overgrown, select an anvil pruner, which works better on old wood. (Or select both for all needs.) Check hand-to-handle width. Pick one that's easy to grasp. Don't overstretch to open and close a pruner. Pruners come in a variety of sizes; there are also models designed for left-handed gardeners.

Hallmarks of a Good Cutting Tool

  • High-carbon-steel blades
  • Blades surfaced with Teflon or another coating to reduce friction, which keeps blades sharper and decreases expended pruning effort by 20 percent
  • Ergonomic contours and mechanics
  • Ratcheting action or compound-cutting, gear-driven designs, which increase cutting power and reduce arm and muscle fatigue
  • Aluminum handles with cushioned grips, making the tool lighter and more comfortable to work with than wood or iron
  • Tools that can be taken apart easily for cleaning and sharpening or that come with replacement blades

Continued on page 2:  Hedge Shears