A clean, sharp blade is fundamental to successful pruning. From bypass and anvil pruners, to long-handled loppers, shears and hand-saws, the goal is always a precise cut. Dull tools make jagged, tearing cuts in plants, thereby inviting water and disease.
While there’s a lot to be said for a brand-new pair of pruners or a fresh, shiny saw, previously used tools can be lubricated and refurbished—and blades can be professionally sharpened or often replaced.
Regardless of the tool, choosing the right pruners for the task is as important as keeping them clean and sharp. Read on to explore common types of pruners, loppers and saws to help achieve healthy, well-trimmed plants.
These hand-held shears generally offer replaceable parts and are left or right-hand specific. Small and large sizes are available and experienced gardeners keep a pair in a hip holster, as they’re ideal for quickly pruning limbs, branches and shoots up to around 1-inch thick.
Sometimes a little anvil can make a big difference. The secret to these pruners is the combination of a sharp single blade and the hard, flat anvil surface, which come together to crush tough limbs. Best used for dead, dry wood up to ¾ inch in diameter, anvil pruners can bruise soft wood but excel at stubborn pruning jobs.
If you’re mostly deadheading, cutting flowers or harvesting veggies, a quality pair of garden scissors are hard to beat. They’re lightweight, compact, easy to maneuver and can be readily sharpened by a professional.
Like scissors on steroids, bypass loppers feature handles about two feet long and a pair of blades that slide past each other. Replaceable parts are often available for these sturdy, long-lasting loppers. And despite their size, they work well in small spaces and easily accomplish general pruning up to 1 ½ inches.
Available in both bypass and anvil configurations, telescoping loppers have handles that can stretch out to over three feet—adding both leverage for larger limbs and a little additional length for those times a ladder is overkill and a branch is just out of reach.
When you need to cut something larger than an inch or two, a saw makes the best sense. A sharp, clean pruning-specific hand saw is ideal for most operations and can be professionally sharpened time and again. Sizes range around 12 to 18 inches, and both folding and fixed blade models are available. Use hand pruning saws for limbs up to 8 inches or so—though don’t be afraid to call a professional arborist if safety is in question.
Sometimes called a saw-on-a-stick, extendable tree pruning saws can reach limbs high in the canopy, thanks to telescoping handles that extend 12 feet or more. Blades are usually replaceable, easily adjusted to various angles and anywhere from a foot to 18-inches long. Additionally, these do-it-all tools feature a pulley-activated bypass lopper to save time and energy when working high in the air.
No matter what pruning instruments a gardener prefers, clean tools are sharp tools. Keep moving parts lightly lubricated and wipe down blades with isopropyl alcohol to cut stubborn sap and sanitize them for the next job. As with all maintenance tasks, a little goes a long way.