I hadn’t been trimming my hedges for long before I realised that a good pair of shears for topiary is a must-have piece of gardening gear. I’ve spent time doing research into this essential tool so that you can make the right choice of bush-fighting best friend.
Here are my four picks of the best hedge shears for trimming and topiary:
- Best All Rounder – Spear & Jackson Razorsharp Geared Shears
- Best Lightweight Pair – Darlac DP400 Garden Shears
- Best Telescopic Pair – Gardena 700 T Garden Shears
- Best Professional Pair – Bahco P52 Professional Shears
Before I dive into the details, it’s worth clarifying that this article focuses on hand tools, rather than power tools, as I looked at those in my Hedge Trimmer article. Similarly I’m not looking at pruning shears as I’ve got an extensive Guide to Secateurs which answers all your questions about those hand-held heroes. And there is a whole separate niche of topiary shears that I’ll review separately, as that’s some ninja level stuff – for now I’m being a bit more all purpose.
But I want you to feel confident before you spend your money on your tools and knowledge is power, so let’s take some time to understand what we’re getting into before I dig into those four recommendations that will put more power to your elbow!
The Anatomy of Garden Hedge Shears
If you had to draw a picture of some shears, this is probably what you’d draw. Two handles connected to two blades by a pivot point. These are bypass shears, as the blades pass by each other and cut the plant between them. This particular pair of Bahco P51 Professionals have rubber stoppers on the handles to mitigate impact, but on the whole they’re a fairly standard, albeit highly recommended professional grade, pair of shears.
However, as with all good tools, there are a number of issues to consider when picking your pair, so let’s have a look at those!
The business end of your garden shears are the blades and this is one area where you don’t want to compromise on price. Stick with steel and you’ll have a lasting relationship with your cutting compadres.
The length of the blade has both an ergonomic and economic impact, and you face the choice of long blades which will cover more surface with a single stroke, saving time and giving you smoother sides, or shorter ones which will be lighter but may mean more time spent snipping. I’m not sure there’s a right answer.
Regular maintenance is the key to success in long lasting equipment and by taking the time to clean the sap and debris from your blades, and from all your equipment, you’ll save a lot of cleaning time in the future. Why spend ages ungumming your equipment before you start when a few minutes spent at the end of a session will allow you to spring into action when the mood strikes?
The interface between your hands and your tools make the handles the most sensitive part of the whole tool. The materials used in the handle can range from traditional wood to cushioned rubber, and although this is somewhat a question of taste, it is smart to seek out ergonomic design that will match the contours of your hands.
The other main variable with the handles is length. If you’ve got high hedges then you’ll need a long reach and that necessitates either long handles or extendable options. The former may provide more strength and stability, but the variable length of extending handles gives you the best of both worlds, while conveniently contributing to simplicity of storage.
Ratchets & Gears
If you need to apply more power to your pruning then gears and ratchets can really help increase the pressure. Ratchet mechanisms will hold the closure of your blades while you re-open the handles, allowing you to cut through thick stems with several passes. It’s worth pointing out that if you’ve got a lot of dense branches to deal with, a hefty pair of loppers might be the bespoke buy you need.
Similarly gear systems increase the power applied with each cut, which is advantageous when working on dense foliage as it will take the strain out of your strokes.
As I discussed in my Hedge Trimmer guide, the weight of your tool has a big impact and while you might develop some magnificent muscles with frequent swings of your hedge shears, it’s unlikely the average amateur gardener will unleash these tools with sufficient frequency.
There is a balance between quality of materials and the weight of the whole tool, so lightweight is not always best, but by the same token, you don’t want to strain your body too much when shrinking your shrubbery.
I don’t want you to pay a fortune for your tools but at the same time I realise that low cost tools are a false economy. While it’s possible to spend over £100 on a pair, a budget of £25 – £50 will get you some great gear, and that’s been the focus of my recommendations.
Now that I’ve explained what defines a good pair of garden shears, here are my picks!
Best All Rounder – Spear & Jackson Razorsharp Geared Hedge Shears
Spear & Jackson have been making gardening equipment for over 250 years and this pair of Razorsharp geared shears proves why they’re still going strong. They’re lightweight, with carbon steel wavy blades and the gear mechanism amplifies your power so you can tackle all but the most beastly branches. With aluminium handles covered in non-slip grips and a 10 year guarantee, these are a pretty unbeatable pair of shears.
Best Lightweight Pair – Darlac DP400
Weighing in at just over 700g, the 10 inch carbon steel blades in these Darlac shears will fly through your chores in no time. The long handles have an ergonomic design to aid the whole process and, to be honest, they look kinda bad ass. The stripped back design has a pleasing aesthetic, which can be useful for keeping the local curtain-twitchers at bay.
Best Telescopic Pair – Gardena 700 T
These telescopic shears from Gardena will give you some serious coverage! As well as 25cm blades, the handles extend from 70cm to 90cm – those long tall hedges will be brought in line in no time! They’re not the lightest, as you’d expect, but the wave-ground non-stick blades will cope with most things and the extra reach means you won’t need to balance on a ladder to hit those high spots.
Best Professional Pair – Bahco P52
The most expensive pair in our selection, these Bahco P52 shears are built to last. The heavy gauge steel blades are serrated near the bottom to grip twigs and branches and with the rubber shock absorbers taking some of the impact, you’ll be blasting through hedgerows all day every day. You’ll also get disassembly instructions so you can sharpen the blades yourself with ease. These are hardcore shears for all you gardening gods out there.
So there you have it! All you ever wanted to know about garden shears, and four strong recommendations as well. I hope you choose well and that you will experience shear joy* as you get your borders in good order!
Thanks for taking the time to read the article and be sure to check out our other tool articles as well!
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*See what I did there?!
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