Tools to keep your plants strong and handsome
Plants are healthier and stronger when trimmed at the right time and in the right places. It's equally important to use the right tool. The hand pruner's specialty is stems and branches less than ½ inch across. For living shoots, grab a bypass-style pruner, so called because the curved blade slides past the bill like a scissor, making clean, surgical slices that heal faster. The components of this Swiss bypass pruner are secured with screws instead of rivets, making it possible to change out broken parts and dull blades. Approx. $47; felcostore.com
Hacking through the dead stuff is the job of an anvil pruner, which has a single blade that strikes against a flat metal plate (the anvil), like a knife on a chopping block. When the blade of this Lee Valley pruner encounters resistance, the handles engage a ratcheting mechanism, allowing you to cut through a tough branch in several easy squeezes rather than a single strained bite. Approx. $43; leevalley.com
The finger-side handle on this anvil pruner rotates on a geared track, which uses the natural motion of your fingers curling into a fist to magnify the force applied by the blade. Its orange plastic thumb screw permits tool-free blade changing. Approx. $30; fiskars.com
The large loops of these "butterfly" handles allow several fingers and your entire thumb to slide through, so you can work the short, spring-free blades while leaving your fingertips free to arrange the cut stems. Approx. $11; orchardsedge.com
A bypass pruner—combined with a saw, weed digger, ruler, and screwdrivers—sets you up for a day in the garden, then folds into its cushioned handles when you're finished (SMALL INSET IMAGE). Approx. $80; leatherman.com
These rosewood-handled harvesting shears, for cutting live roses or bunches of grapes, have springy steel between the blades to keep a gentle grip on a cut stem; you can reach, cut, and retrieve with only one hand. Approx. $22; leevalley.com
An unusual double-cut pruner severs delicate live stems neatly from two sides, so you don't have to think about blade position. The blades meet in the middle, though the edges are offset slightly to avoid colliding. Approx. $49; gardenersedge.com
A 44-inch bypass pruner extends your reach overhead or into dense, prickly growth. Once you make the cut, serrated teeth grip the trimming until you release the handles. Approx. $65; orchardsedge.com
One of the precious few tools specially engineered for lefties, this bypass model has a rotating grip on the finger-side handle that turns as you squeeze your fist, reducing the blisters and finger fatigue common at the end of a day of pruning. We prefer the coil springs on this pruner over the "Slinky" type because they're strong, move smoothly, and don't pinch. Plus, you can oil them. Approx. $60; felcostore.com
These leather-handled bypass snips have a serrated blade that holds wiry stems in place for cutting. It's the standard harvesting and pruning sécateur for vineyard workers in France. Approx. $33; leevalley.com
If your plant-trimming activities go beyond the occasional tidying up of small shrubs, you'll be need tools more potent than a hand pruner: long-handled loppers and a pruning saw. Let the loppers take over the moment you feel yourself straining your wrist or needing two hands to squeeze a pruner's jaws shut. And when faced with an even bigger job—typically, branches thicker than 1½ inches across—switch to a pruning saw. The best saws have long, triple-beveled teeth that cut on the pull stroke. And the longer the blade, the faster it cuts.
Toro's bypass pruner's handles adjust to splay open in two positions—one grip fits in large hands and another, narrower setting accommodates smaller hands. A rotating handle pivots as your knuckles curl around it, allowing
you to cut branches up to 1 inch in diameter with ergonomic ease.
Approx. $35, Toro.com