Be it winter pruning back shrubs, spring pruning in readiness for the forthcoming year, deadheading or just generally keeping your plants tidy, there are a large variety of tools available for the job, large or small. With so many to choose from it can be a little daunting, especially for first time gardeners. So we’ve put together a comprehensive list of which types to use where.
There are two basic types of secateurs, bypass and anvil. Bypass secateurs tend to be better suited for general and lighter work, ideal for deadheading roses or cutting back larger perennials like hollyhocks and dahlias, while anvil secateurs have a solid surface called an anvil or table on which the cutting blade comes to rest, therefore they are highly appropriate for use on older wood and tougher plant stems, they also tend to give a much cleaner cut, particularly important when dealing with shrubs that might be prone to disease getting in to a ragged cut.
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As with secateurs, garden loppers tend to be either bypass or anvil types, for similar reasons. Bypass loppers generally have a smaller cutting capability as anything larger might do damage to both the loppers and the plant. They are perfect however for cutting back softer wood on shrubs such as buddleia and they usually have a more pointed end, meaning they can get into slightly smaller areas than anvil loppers can.
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Anvil loppers can be used to tackle the pruning of larger shrubs and can sometimes cut small branches from trees, the cleaner cutting is better for trees such as plum or cherry, so as to help prevent pests and diseases getting in and infecting the plant. Loppers can also come with telescopic handle to help you reach higher pruning jobs - something to consider if you have a large number of larger shrubs in your garden. For both types of lopper, DO NOT be tempted to try and cut something that is going to put a strain on the tool or yourself, this could result in breaking the loppers, damaging the plant and of course hurting yourself!
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For larger branches that loppers and secateurs can’t cut, the next stage is to use a pruning saw. Especially made with saw teeth that only cut on the pull stroke, (to hopefully prevent the blade from getting jammed), these very useful tools also tend to come with the blade folded neatly and safely into the handle, to prevent it being damaged and also for the gardeners’ safety!
Always wear gloves when using a pruning saw. First, make a few cuts on the underside of the branch, directly below the intended cut before cutting from the top, this will help prevent the bark from splitting away and also help to prevent the blade jamming.
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Sometimes it’s just not possible to reach the pruning job safely, so there are long reach cutters, both in loppers and pruning saws to make life a lot easier. These each operate in the same way as their normal counterparts but with extremely long handles; the Wolf Garten Extendable Loppers for example will cut through 35mm branches up to 5.5m metres (18 feet) away. In the case of loppers of this type, a lever cutting system would be used to operate the blades, rather than the normal "scissor action".
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As with most tools, powered options are usually available for cutting back and pruning, although obviously you wouldn’t need a power tool to deadhead a rose! Petrol and electric hedgecutters, as well as chainsaws will make short work of some jobs – always remember safety first though! Important note: Always wear the correct safety wear when tackling any job in the garden, especially when working at eye level. Clean pruning equipment after use to prevent the spread of plant diseases.
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I’ve been gardening for as long as I can remember, my first earliest memory being planting
seeds in my Grandfather’s prestige flower bed and having a prize lettuce growing there, which he proudly left to show everyone.
Since then, gaining knowledge and experience from both my Grandfather and my Father, I’ve continued to garden, both as a hobby and later on as a professional gardener and landscaper for 12 years. I love all aspects of it, from the design and build, to the planting out of summer borders with plants you’ve either grown from seed or raised from plugs. Unusual varieties always catch my eye and I’m keen to try growing them, even if sometimes it means learning from my mistakes.