Pruning is extremely important not only for aesthetic reasons, but also for the health of your plants and trees; the fact that there are so many different types of tree pruners only goes to underscore that fact. For the uninitiated, this multiplicity of tools may at first seem overwhelming; after all, how many different types of tools do you really need to trim a branch? And after all, does it really matter which one of them you choose, as long as it cuts?
The truth is that yes, it does matter. It is important to use the right size, shape and strength tool depending on the size and type of leaf and branch that you need to cut; use shears that are too small and weak, and trimming branches can become a tug of war nightmare that is exhausting and damaging to your tree. If you’re confused about the purposes of different types of tree pruners, simply check out this handy glossary to find out which tool is right for which task.
Tree Pruner 1: Pruning Shears
Pruning shears are probably the most common tool in the average gardener’s kit. The pruning shear is a relatively small, hand-held cutter that has two handles that are gripped in one hand (like a wrench) and has two cutting blades. While there are different types of pruning shears, none of them are intended to cut anything larger than about ½ inch thick. Therefore, when pruning your trees, use shears to trim twigs, offshoots, sick leaves or thin branches. They are also best for very fine grooming type work on manicured hedges and shrubs.
The most common types of pruning shears include the scissor-action type, the anvil-action type, the bypass shear and the parrot-beak shear. Anvil shears are the strongest and the best for cutting branches.
Tree Pruner 2: Loppers
The next step up in size is the lopper. These look like a very large pair of shears, with double blades and a long double handle, but have to be operated with two hands. Like pruning shears, loppers also come in a bypass model and an anvil model. A quality lopper can cut through branches that measure 2 inches in diameter or even more, depending on the strength, flexibility and porosity of the wood. If you have a lot of trees on your property, it’s good to have loppers handy to take care of stray branches and trim away decay. They can handle the tough stuff that pruning shears can’t cut.
Tree Pruner 3: Pole Pruners
Finally, the toughest of the tree pruners has got to be the pole pruner. Like its name suggests, this is a type of pruner that is on the end of a long pole and is operated with a control rope. It allows you to reach high up on the tree and do your trimming work without having to get on a ladder. The pole pruner should only be used by the serious gardener or arborist, because it’s a bit more dangerous to use: its blades are much sharper than pruning shears or loppers, and there’s also the danger of branches falling on top of you while you’re using it.