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Tools

What Are The Best Garden Hedge Shears?

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:

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

Bahco P51 Professional Garden Shears
Bahco P51 Professional 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!

Blade Quality

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?

Handles

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.

Weight

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.

Price

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!

Spear & Jackson Razorsharp Geared Hedge Shears

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.

Darlac Garden Lightweight Hedge Shear

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.

Gardena Comfort Hedge Clippers 700T

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.

Bahco P51 Professional Shear

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!

*See what I did there?!

Categories
Tools

How Do You Choose Secateurs? (What Is Important And What We Recommend!)

If you’ve done any searching online to find the best secateurs, you can see there is a lot of choice. Working out what is actually important in a pair of secateurs is vital to making the right decision for you.

To choose the best secateurs, or pruners, you want to consider comfort, weight, material strength and usability. A good pair of secateurs will cut with precision and enable you to work hard on your hedges without discomfort.

There are three types of secateur:

  • Bypass (good for living branches)
  • Parrot beak (good for narrow stems)
  • Anvil (good for wood and dead branches)

Now that’s out of the way, I want to take some time to explain the different types of tool, so that you can understand what you’re wielding. There’s more to these things than meets the eye!

Before I dig a little deeper (excuse the spade pun!), it’s worth pointing out that this isn’t a sponsored post, and the images I’ve chosen are based on my “if I drew a secateur what would it look like?” criteria. The tools I recommend at the end are based on my own findings, and the links are affiliate links. You don’t have to follow my advice, but I’ve certainly done the leg work (or rather, hand work) for you!

Bypass Secateurs

FELCO 12 Secateurs

If you are working with living bushes and shrubs and you want to make precise cuts into relatively soft wood and branches, then bypass secateurs are the tool for you. Essentially they have the same action as scissors, with two blades that pass each other by, cleanly cutting the plant between them.

The two blades will differ in their curves, with one being thicker and generally concave (think of this as the lower jaw) and the other being convex. Our FELCO friend shows the lower jaw quite clearly. It also features a ratchet (the dark mechanism at the hinge of the two blades) and a spring (to help open the blades).

Anvil Secateurs

FELCO 31 Anvil Secateurs
FELCO 31 Anvil Secateurs

If you have to tackle thicker branches, old wood or trees* then anvil secateurs give you the power you need. As you squeeze the grips, the blade presses down onto a flat surface (the anvil), and because the pivot is not central, the blade moves forward through the plant as well as cutting it, which creates more force. Think of it like a knife cutting a carrot on a board, rather than a pair of scissors doing the same job and you’ll see where the difference matters.

*Obviously we’re not talking about cutting down trees with these tools. You’ll need a chainsaw and some professional support if you’re tackling the really big jobs!

Parrot-beak Secateurs

These are similar to the bypass style, but the two blades are concave and trap the stem between them prior to cutting. These tend to be used on narrow stems, and are only necessary for the die-hard delicate de-headers.

Which Are The Best Secateurs

The Finer Points

You may spend a lot of time using these tools, so there are some practical considerations that may define the best secateurs for you:

  • Comfort – the weight of the tool and the feel of the grip is critical to your success and to the harmony you will experience as you prune plants. While you will naturally adapt to using any object for long enough, a well balanced pair of secateurs with thoughtful grip materials will make life much easier.
  • Visibility – inevitably you will put your tools down and wonder where you left them – there’s a reason why the most popular tools are often the brightest. As tempting as it is to choose visually appealing products, practicality should come first. Save the fancy pairs for your social media feeds, while using something slightly garish as your easy-to-find friend in the field.
  • Steel – the natural choice for all good garden blades, the better the quality of steel on your tool, the easier the job. This is another of those price vs. quality points where a softer steel will blunt and lose the fight against branches, which ain’t cool.
  • Ratchets – if strength is an issue, and you struggle to have the kind of grip that can crush walnuts, then you may consider a pair that feature ratchets. These lock the position of the blade with each squeeze, bringing them together incrementally until the job is done – at which point you release the ratchet and the grips return to their starting position.
  • Latches – you don’t need your blades on show all the time, so latches are almost ubiquitous on all secateurs. Just be sure to give the blades a wipe before you close them up for the night!

Which Secateurs did I choose?

After a lot of online searching and an amount of surreptious squeezing at a few garden centres, I decided to get three pairs of secateurs – a bypass pair for my everyday pruning, an anvil pair to tackle the bigger jobs and then some nifty Japanese secateurs for times when I wanted to channel my inner ninja.

My picks for the best secateurs are:

My number one choice is the FELCO 12 secateurs as they have a rotating lower handle that moves with your grip, meaning that you can use them for hours at a time without blistering or losing your edge. Take it from me, they’re a great tool and can be used as a daily driver for years.

Best Secateurs: Bypass – FELCO 12

These red handled snips – shown above – are a classic choice but much like their fellow countryman (countrytool?) the Swiss Army knife, you can’t go wrong with FELCO. The company has been going since 1945 and their #12 secateurs, which are their original product, have all the features you need for a good cutting companion:

  • Replaceable forged steel blades – which means you’ve got a friend for life.
  • A wire cutting notch to take care of hidden metal miscreants.
  • A sap groove to aid with blade cleanliness.
  • Aluminium handles with their trademark red covering, meaning you can find them with ease.

The thing that sets these secateurs apart from the average is the rotating lower handle which turns with your grip as you close the blades. It’s an unusual element but once you’ve got to grips with it (literally) it’s a game changer as you don’t get the same drag on your hands and therefore you reduce your chances of blistering.

Trust me, they’re great.

Best Secateurs: Anvil – Spear & Jackson Razorsharp Ratchet Anvil Secateurs

Spear & Jackson Razorsharp Ratchet Anvil Secateurs

I know I won’t use these as often as the FELCOs, but when tackling threatening thicket, these ratchet powered Spear & Jacksons are the tough guys I want. Spear & Jackson have been making tools since 1760 and their products come with a ten year guarantee as standard. The ratchet mechanism really helps drive the blade through the thickest stems (up to 2cm in diameter) and the grip is comfortable and assuring. They work fairly well with gloves, but you may find the one glove approach, for the hand that clears the debris, is the way to go.

Best Secateurs: Ninja ChoiceOkatsune 103 Bypass Secateurs

Okatsune 103 Bypass Secateurs

When you start looking into the Japanese secateur scene, the name Okatsune comes up again and again. With carbon steel throughout, the plant material has no chance against these blades and I’m sure some branches just fell off in fear, rather than through cutting. The latch and spring are simple and elegant, and they are the most comfortable cutting tool I’ve ever used. I even treated myself to the Okatsune leather holster as well in honour of such a fine implement.

It’s worth pointing out that you can quite happily live with your Okatsune secateurs for years as they are a mighty tool, however for me, the difference between the FELCO pair and the Okatsune is akin to an Audi vs a Ferrari. You can drive a Ferrari all day and you’ll have a great time, but more often than not, you’ll plump for the Audi as a daily driver.

For me, if I have to get down and dirty with some plants – trying to revive a dying hedge for instance – then I’ll use the FELCO pair. But if I’m getting artistic and want to create a ball topiary, for instance, then the Okatsune pair give me the right attitude.

I hope you’ve found this article helpful and that you get many hours of pleasurable pruning with the tools you choose!