The breath of heaven bush encroaches on my garden statuary. In the back yard, the trumpet vine escapes into the neighbor’s yard. And the branches of our rose bushes ramble into the sky and bend under their own weight, presenting thorny hazards for anyone brave (or stupid) enough to amble up the front walk, usually my kids. I’ve dried a lot of tears and applied Band-Aids to too many scratches lately. Our yard needs a pruning.
It’s been a year since hubby Patrick has tackled any detailed yard work. His last encounter with the pruners produced two causalities: one bent pruner, one scratched and angry amateur gardener. So, as we ate an apricot crostini and sipped coffee on our veranda one late winter Saturday, I gazed at the ragged rose bushes, wondering how to ask him to prune them. Then I remembered, he’s a sucker for new toys. I’ll get him a pair of really good pruning shears, I thought. Then I won’t have to ask him. He’ll be so eager to try them out, he’ll run out and trim everything in sight.
I leaned over and sliced another piece of pastry for my handsome hubby and slipped into the house to call my friend Kate who works with local floral designer Bradley Snyder. Kate said she’d ask him for a recommendation. Snyder’s reply: “Felco trimmers are the best in the world. They are not cheap, but they are so sharp you won’t even know it when they take your finger off.”
“It goes back to quality,” said Fausto Palafox, owner of Mission Hills Nursery. “With pruning shears, you get what you pay for. Most of the imports tend to be what we call knock-offs. If you use them heavily, they tend to fall apart. When you get into consistent work, you want a better tool. The more common U.S. brand is the Corona brand pruners, which are good quality pruners. The Corona shear is stamped steel. It is all one piece — the blade and everything else. Then if you go to the higher end, where you get into a more professional style, there is the Swiss-made Felco. With a Felco, it all comes apart, so you can replace the blade or you can replace the anvil portion of the pruner. So, it makes for a longer life of the tool.”
Anvil? “There are all kinds of pruners,” Palafox explained. “We offer some called bypass pruners, where the blade cuts across the stationary part; so, it actually cuts through it.
“The anvil pruner has a base, or anvil, on one side and the blade on the other. The blade cuts directly to the anvil, kind of like a squeezing motion. It has a very sharp blade. The anvil pruners come with various-size blades, depending on what you are cutting, and different sizes according to the hand size.
“Felco sells pruners that are designed specially for a small hand, and they also sell some that have a rotating handle so that it doesn’t give you blisters rubbing against your hands. As you squeeze it, the handle actually rotates in your hand, so it never puts tremendous pressure on one point of the hand. Typically, with shears, as you squeeze, they are not going to move on you.
“There are others designed for older people that have a ratchet action. You cut so far, and then it ratchets and then it cuts again. It gives you more strength in that respect. All brands sell some form of a ratchet-type pruner nowadays.”
Should pruners be sharpened?
“The pruners should be sharpened on a regular basis, with a file or sharpening stone.
“They also should be cleaned and disinfected after each use. Clean them with a citrus cleaner to get rid of any sap or unwanted debris so that when you use them again you are using a clean tool. To disinfect them, simply dip them in a bleach solution mixed ten to one. That is adequate to kill all kinds of bad guys. Because what happens is, let’s say you are pruning a plant that has a disease of some sort; many times, those diseases can be transferred by the tool. You cut on a diseased plant, and then you go and cut on a clean plant, you are actually transporting the disease with you. You are actually perpetuating the problem. So, the best thing to do is, if you are cutting more than one plant, dip the pruner and then go ahead and continue cutting.
“A Felco typically runs from about $55 to over $100. A Corona shear runs you somewhere from $25 up to about $40, depending on what you are getting. We don’t carry the whole selection of replaceable parts for Felco, but we can order them and get most within a week.”