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Daphne - Pruning

With Christmas galloping towards us, I am beginning my usual panic of what to buy for Christmas presents. Keen gardeners aren’t usually a problem, as we are generally thinking along the same lines, but this year my brother-in-law has presented me with a problem.

He is very keen on his trusty pair anvil secateurs (the ones all real gardeners could be seen using at one time).   I think he might even have inherited these from his father (born in 1905……..); I believe he once even had two pairs, but lost one helping a friend in his garden. The other pair goes everywhere with him, and he was recently lamenting the fact that should he lose these, he would be lost, because this brand was no longer on the market.

I told him I thought I’d heard they were back, and rashly promised to buy him a new pair for Christmas.   Me and my big mouth.

I did a web search this morning and found that, yes, they are back, and no, he wasn’t getting a new pair, as they are now nearly as costly as the most expensive alternative – far pricier than we are used to giving each other and even likely to cause embarrassment if he found out what I’d spent. Luckily I found a nice pair on e-bay at a mere £12, so everyone should be happy; I can supplement his gift with a few stocking fillers and still stay within budget.

I can understand why many gardeners like anvil secateurs such as these.   They can be used right or left-handed, there are few parts to break or go wrong, and a sharp blade cutting onto a hard surface will make a nice, clean cut.   I used to have a pair as a youngster (yes, I was keen, even then), but, like bro-in-law’s second pair, they disappeared, possibly ending up in a compost heap or bonfire.   When I started professional gardening, I treated myself to a pair of really expensive scissor-types, but I lost these, and after about three replacements I decided I would be better with a cheap and cheerful alternative that could be replaced about four times for the price of one of these up-market tools.

Most serious gardeners are divided into two camps – the ones who prefer the anvil types of secateurs and those who get on better with those with a scissor action.   Both have their advantages and disadvantages, but, having used both for lengthy periods, I tend to favour the latter as I find I can see more accurately where to cut.   Their only real drawback is that if you prune left handed, you need a left-handed model, but I have overcome this by learning to use them right-handed, which isn’t difficult if you do a lot of pruning.

When it comes to loppers, however, I have no preferences. I find scissor-action types work best with shorter handles, where you are still trying to prune accurately but can’t reach with secateurs, while the more meaty, anvil types are ideal for long-reach jobs and thicker branches.   Over the years I have built up a collection of different pruners – even a pair of grape scissors which is great for really tricky work – each tool has its own specific job, and woe betide anyone who uses one for something other than its designated function!

One thing I would never be without is a folding pruning saw. The first I bought was from the same stable as those pricey secateurs, but they needed a new blade quite quickly and I discovered that cheaper alternatives are available that cost about the same as a new blade on my first saw. Sadly, many gardening tools now come into the same category as other ‘use and throw away’ appliances, but that’s modern life, I suppose. The important thing, regardless of price, is that the tool should be fit for purpose and in tip-top condition, otherwise you, and your plants, will soon get tired of your efforts.


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