Recently I had to face reality and acknowledge that my trusty pruners have gone missing and it was way past time for them to turn up. Since February is the prime time to prune woody stems and almost everything in the garden, I decided they were indispensable, I had to have them, and ordered a replacement pair of classic Felco #2 bypass pruners. The ‘most popular pruners in the world’ arrived the next day shiny, bright red and sharp. But that got me thinking about the different types of pruners.
By-pass pruners are my preference; they act like scissors with the upper blade making a slicing cut past the lower and leaving behind a clean, easy-to heal cut. The lower, non-sharpened blade is also known as the “hook” or sometimes (confusingly) as the “anvil blade”. The forged aluminum alloy handles on my pruners have a padded red plastic coating that helps to locate them when laid down amongst the greens and browns and walk off. In addition, I can get replacements for all parts of the pruners, for example the springs have popped out now and then. I use a solution of 1 part bleach to 9 parts water to disinfect the blades now and then when making a lot of cuts.
In contrast, anvil pruners work more like a knife on a flat cutting board. The sharp upper blade cuts down onto a non-moving, non-cutting surface. For some reason, anvil pruners are often less expensive than by-pass, tempting the novice gardener to choose them instead. But if an anvil blade gets dull, it generally crushes the stem or branch being cut, leaving behind a ragged, hard-to-heal cut that becomes an entryway for fungus spores or bacteria. Anvil pruners are usually a bit more bulky and while great for cutting out dead wood, are less able to get into tight spots.
Other non-cutting design options for pruners include ergonometric designs with a lower handle that revolves to reduce the effort of cutting, redesigns that are slimmer for extended reach, left-handed pruners and pruners for smaller hands. Find the one that suits you best and put it on your Valentine’s Day wish list.
P.S. Disclaimer: I receive no remuneration of any kind from the Felco Company; in fact, they don’t even know I wrote this blog. I just like them best of the many I’ve tried in my long gardening career.