Hand pruners are the gift your favorite gardener deserves – Help US

Whether they are for yourself or for a gift, it’s worthwhile to shop carefully for hand pruners.

“It’s a fundamental tool,” said Julie Janoski, Plant Clinic manager at The Morton Arboretum in Lisle. “You’re likely to use pruners every time you work in the yard.”

Well-made pruners will last a long time. If they fit your hand well, they will require less effort and hand strength. If their blades are sharp, they will cut more easily, and they will also be healthier for your plants.

“Sharp blades make clean cuts,” Janoski said. When you slice plant tissue neatly, rather than tearing it or crushing it, the wounds will be less likely to admit diseases and will seal up more quickly.

Pruners come in two major types: anvil and bypass. “Gardeners should choose bypass pruners,” she said.

The difference is in the arrangement of the blades. Anvil pruners have one straight blade that closes against a flat surface, like a hammer hitting an anvil. They grab and crush branches and are often used by landscape contractors to remove large amounts of dead wood.

Bypass pruners have two curved blades that move past each other like the blades of a pair of scissors. They slice rather than tearing or crushing. “They’re the right tool for working on live branches of trees and shrubs,” Janoski said.

When purchasing pruners or loppers as a gift or for yourself, choose curved, scissor-action bypass blades (right) over straight anvil blades (left).

A sharp pair of bypass pruners will cut branches up to about one-half inch in diameter.

At the bottom of the price range, beware of pruners priced at $12 or $15. “Lower price pruners are often flimsy and dull and will rust easily,” she said. “They won’t last as long and they probably won’t be comfortable to use.”

At the other extreme, professional-quality pruners can cost $50 to $80. Because they can be taken apart for cleaning and sharpening and to replace parts, these tools can last for decades. They also come in a range of sizes and handle designs to fit a variety of hands. There are even left-handed models.

“Having pruners that really feel good in your hand makes a big difference,” Janoski said. “That way, your hand won’t get as tired and achy when you’re doing a lot of pruning.”

People’s hands are very individual, so it can be difficult to buy properly fitting pruners for someone else (or even for yourself). Even ergonomic models that are intended to be easy on arthritic hands may fit better in some hands than others.

Moderately priced pruners, in the $25 to $40 range, are usually sold in packaging that makes it impossible to try them out in the store. Before you buy any pair of pruners, “check to be sure that they will be returnable, even if you’ve taken them out of the package,” she said.

Already have good pruners? Consider loppers. These are essentially large-bladed pruners on 15- to 24-inch-long handles that give you more leverage to cut larger branches. Loppers also can extend your reach by a foot or more. Be sure to get the bypass version.

If you give pruners or loppers, consider tucking something extra into the package: a small diamond file or pruner-sharpening tool — which are usually less than $10 — so the gardener can keep those slicing blades sharp.

For tree and plant advice, contact the Plant Clinic at The Morton Arboretum (630-719-2424, mortonarb.org/plant-clinic, or plantclinic@mortonarb.org). Beth Botts is a staff writer at the Arboretum.

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