by Charlene Burgi
According to the local weatherman, we are in for a treat this weekend. The temperatures are going to reach into the 60s. The inclination for most of us is to head outdoors after experiencing recent chilly weather. We can replace our mittens and heavy jackets with gardening gloves and pruning tools.
It is pruning season and what a great time to tackle the job! Ornamentals will appreciate the thinning, shaping and trimming while they are dormant. Roses, berries and fruit trees will bear more fruit and flower as the result of our labor.
Often, however, the pruning gets put off as there seems to be a mystery around what tool to use. Let me go out on a limb here (no pun intended) and say everyone that gardens should have good pruning shears.
If you are in the market for pruning shears, remember that they come in various sizes, shapes and types. Buy the size pruners that fit comfortably in your hand for ease of use. Think ergonomics or your hands and wrists will get sore. And understand that various types and sizes are used for specific jobs.
There are two types of pruning shears to consider: anvil and bypass. (Someone will call me on not mentioning the parrot beak pruners, but they aren’t often used.) An anvil pruner has one blade that closes onto a flat surface. They often crush a twig or woody stem, and limit how close you can get to specific areas. Save their use for plants like hydrangea, fuchsia or soft-stemmed perennials.
Bypass pruners have two blades that slide past each other when making a cut. These are the workhorse in my garden. The bypass pruning shears are available in several sizes including long-handled loppers that come in various lengths and materials such as wood, fiberglass or metal. The bypass style also comes in a ratchet form that enables them to cut through hard wood with minimal effort on your part.
Next, consider the job you are facing and which tool will get the job done. Hand pruning shears should tackle a twig or stem no larger than ¾ inch. Loppers are used on stems or branches up to 1½ to 2 inches. Hand saws, pole pruners or chain saws may be in order if you are working on trees. You would use these tools for any cuts greater than 2 inches.
Once the tool mystery is solved, there may still be questions about where to make the cut, what fruit bears on new or old wood, and so on. There are excellent books on pruning and many online resources to help you, or be sure to stay tuned for more pruning tips next week.
Meanwhile, be safe. These tools are sharp!