A pair of pruners is perhaps the most reached for (and most often misplaced) tool in a gardener’s armoury. Whether you are cutting tree stems to encourage growth, or hacking back invasive brambles, you’ll need decent secateurs that are up to the task in hand.
When purchasing your pruners, there are two types to consider: for pruning live stems, you’ll want to make sharp, precise cuts, so go for a pair of crosscut secateurs, where the blades slide past each other, like scissors. For the more destructive gardening tasks, such as chomping through dead branches, a pair of anvil secateurs is your tool of choice. With this type of pruner, the top blade bites down onto a lower base plate, cutting and crushing as you apply the pressure.
Ideally, try out a pair before buying, as comfort is key. Someone with dainty, presidential paws, for instance, will be less suited to the secateurs chosen by someone with hands the size of spades. Other factors to consider are weight, sharpness and springiness.
Even with all of these variables taken into consideration you may still be overwhelmed by the abundance of blades on offer, so stand by your rose beds – we’ve assembled ten of the best secateurs money can buy.
1. Niwaki Secateurs: £69, Niwaki
Hand-forged in Hyogo by Japanese craftsmen, these secateurs are a work of art. You can hear the quality just by squeezing the handles and listening to the precision, carbon steel blades slice together (just don’t hold them too close to your ear). Owners of the iconic red and yellow handled Tobisho secateurs (as favoured by Monty Don) will find them similar in quality, but these feel heavier and more robust – and they are £10 cheaper.
2. Felco No. 12: £52.06, World of Felco
This is a fine pair from Felco, the quality Swiss secateurs-maker responsible for the fabled Felco No. 2, a stalwart secateur and tool of choice for many professional gardeners. Felco No. 12 is a pair of roll handle secateurs, meaning that the handle is engineered to roll with your fingers as you cut. This can feel a little odd the first few times you use them, but once you get going, you won’t want to stop snipping. Roll handles means less strain on your hand muscles, which equates to less effort required to prune. And as far as we are concerned, the less effort the better.
3. Sophie Conran Precision Secateurs: £27.60, Amazon
Featuring a long snout for reaching deep among plant stems, these handsome stainless steel snips are great for floristry work and precise, pinpoint trimming. The blades have a sharp edge, and the brass lock at the base of the handle prevents them from slicing things they shouldn’t when not in use. A handy pair of secateurs to keep at home in the drawer, perfect for keeping unruly houseplants in check.
4. LÖWE 5.124: £31.24, Quality Garden Tools
Old time horts lamenting the demise of the iconic Rolcut pruner will be cheered to know that this is the very same tool, just resurrected under the original German brand name. With their distinctive, snub-nosed styling and no-nonsense, rugged construction, these shears will boss your rosebush into shape. They are great value, too – a shade over thirty pounds is an absolute snip for this kind of quality.
5. Bahco PX-M3-R500P Professional Pruning Shears: £46.84, ManoMano
Here’s an innovative pair of pruners from Bahco, a Swedish hand tool company founded by the appropriately Swedish-sounding Johan Petter Johansson – industrialist, toolmaker and inventor of the plumber wrench. Bahco secateurs sit in your hand with a slightly vertical inclination, which prevents you over tilting your wrist while working. This pair is also fully customisable – all components are replaceable, and you can choose from three handle sizes, three cutting heads and three spring strengths.
6. Opinel Le Secteur French Pruner: £53, Le Petit Jardin
With their funky French styling, these pruners would look the part mooching around with chic utensils in a designer kitchen. They are, however, designed for earthier tasks, and fortunately back up their good looks with great performance. Opinel knows a thing or two about blade making, and these snips are surgically sharp. They have a neat, concealed spring mechanism and sport a three-way switch that allows the user to limit the blade opening for swift pruning of smaller stems.
7. WOLF-Garten RS5000 Anvil Pruners: £37.99, Tesco
These burly anvil pruners were the heaviest on test, but made light work of the thicket we presented to them, wolfing their way through the woody stems with gusto. They feature a dual-sided safety catch, making them suitable for left or right-handed use. Interestingly, they were the only ones we had on test that incorporated a lanyard – handy for dangling them off your wrist during slurps of tea, mid-prune.
8. Wilkinson Sword Razorcut Pro Angled Head Bypass Pruner: £29.99, Thompson & Morgan
These are sturdy, traditionally styled pruners, with an ergonomic handle and a light aluminium chassis. You can dial the latch down a notch for tackling smaller twigs and stems, but these snips will happily slice through wood up to 22mm diameter. They felt well balanced and snappy in action, and had one of the most powerful biting actions on test.
9. Burgon & Ball Ergo Deadheaders: £9.95, Amazon
Not secateurs in the strictest sense – you’ll have trouble slicing anything thicker than a pencil with these – but they are specifically designed for deadheading, and are particularly good for people with weak or limited grip. They are small and light, sit comfortably in the palm of your hand, and have a finger hook that prevents them from falling from your grip during frantic pruning sessions. They’ll also fit nicely into your pocket – perfect for those who can’t walk past a flowerbed without lopping off any brown, fading blooms.
10. Spear & Jackson Razorsharp Geared Anvil Secateurs: £16.49, Amazon
These are a decent option for the budget-conscious gardener. These light, zippy pruners are comfy to wield and have a strong biting action, aided by the ribbed anvil plate on the lower blade which holds stems steady, ready for the chop. The thumb-operated safety catch is easy to use left- or right-handed, and the carbon steel blade is coated to afford extra protection against sappy residues and corrosion.
The Verdict: Secateurs
We’re laying down our hard-earned cash on a pair of Niwaki secateurs. They’re not cheap, but craftsmanship of this quality is worth the splurge. Yoi shigoto, Niwaki!
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