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Pruning: tools for the job

It's worth getting well kitted out with pruning equipment. Secateurs, loppers and a folding pruning saw will enable you to tackle a wide range of jobs. Other useful tools are ideal for specific pruning tasks, such as shears for clipping hedges and long-reach pruners for high branches in trees.

Whichever tools you use, it's important to look after them. Sharp secateurs, for instance, are a pleasure to use, and when they cut cleanly they don't tear the stems so there are no flaps left to die off. Always wipe the sap of secateur blades after use, spray or wipe with oil, store them in a dry place so they don't rust - and remember to sharpen them every winter.


Secateurs

Bypass secateurs, which have a scissor-action, are great all-rounders, for stems up to finger thickness. The anvil type (where a blade cuts onto a flat surface) can crush stems, so are best kept for 'uncritical' jobs.

Pruning saw

Pruning saws come in various sizes for branches up to 5cm thick. Some have coarsely angled teeth so they cut on both push and pull strokes, but many cut only on the pull stroke. Use larger bow-saws for bigger branches and small trunks.

Long-reach pruner

Like secateurs on a long pole, long-reach pruners are operated by pulling a rope or lever at the other end. They're ideal for occasional pruning of tall trees or big shrubs cutting woody branches up to about 3cm thick.

Loppers

With long handles for good leverage and heavy-duty blades, loppers cut woody stems up to 3cm thick. They're ideal for tough pruning and some have extendable handles and a ratchet system to make cutting easier.

Hand shears

These short-handled shears are for clipping hedges and box edgings, cutting stems up to pencil-thickness. Some have extendable handles for tall hedges. (Not to be confused with long-handled, lawn-edging shears.)

Topiary shears

Also known as sheep shears, these are used one-handed for trimming soft green shoots up to 5mm thick on small topiary and shaped shrubs, evergreen herbs, and other detailed work on compact plants.





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