Early spring. Known for its gray skies, rain and sometimes snow. In the Pacific Northwest, we start to notice buds beginning to swell, and plants starting to sprout. This is prime-time to prune! Essential to this garden task is picking perfect hand pruners. So, if you’re new to pruning, or just want a brief refresher course, here’s a little “Hand Pruner 101.”
Spending a few minutes (or hours) in the garden pruning hybrid roses, summer and fall-blooming trees and shrubs before they start to push new growth is a nice respite this spring. Remember to look for dead wood and damage from winter snows and wind to remove too.
The most-used item in our garden tool bags, bypass pruners feature two curved blades, a cutting blade and an anvil blade that slide past each other.
Bypass pruners are best for making clean, accurate cuts on branches from ¼” to 1” in diameter depending on the model. Accurate for deadheading and cutting back perennials and vines. Easy to use for cutting or pruning in edible gardens.
Available with bypass or anvil blades, ratchet pruners cut in stages, making it easy to prune larger branches.
Ratchet pruners are best for pruning trees and shrubs that are greater than 1” in diameter. They reduce hand fatigue when working on bigger projects.
Anvil pruners have a single, upper blade that lands on the flat, wide surface of the lower anvil blade to cut. The cut isn’t as precise as bypass pruners and it can crush “live” material, but it is particularly good on woody plant material.
Anvil Pruners are best for removing dead wood in shrubs and trees.
Now that you have decided on what style of pruners you want, here are a few features to consider when searching for your garden tool.
Grip. Pruning involves repetitive motion. The grip of your pruners should fit comfortably in your hand, with and without garden gloves. Make sure the cutting action is smooth and easy for your strength level.
There are pruners made for lefties and for people with smaller hands. Test drive a bunch to find a pair that works for you.
Carbon Steel Blades. Look for these quality blades that stay sharper longer and are easier to sharpen.
Replaceable Parts. Being able to replace old, rusted or worn parts is a bonus, especially if you like the fit and action of your pruners.
Lock. Having a good lock helps protect the blades of your pruners (and keeps you from cutting yourself!). Make sure you can operate the lock with your pruning hand.
Springs. Generally coiled metal or wire, a sturdy spring means less stress on your hands while you are pruning.
Whether you have a large yard or a small balcony, choosing the perfect hand pruners will make gardening an enjoyable experience for you and your plants. Keep them clean, sharp and well-oiled and they’ll reward you with a lifetime of use!
Pro tip: It’s worth it to get a holster so you don’t lose your pruners in the debris pile!