If there's a single tool all gardeners should own, it's a hand pruner.
There are two types: anvil and by-pass. Anvil-style pruners have one cutting edge that cuts against a flat edge (or anvil). This style tends to crush the bark along the cut, however the blades rarely need adjusting.
Bypass pruners cut like scissors with the blades slicing past one another. They make a clean incision, which helps the plant recover quickly from the cutting trauma, but the blades require frequent sharpening, lubrication and adjustment.
As with all garden tools, buy the best pruner you can afford.
Brands to know: ARS, Corona, Felco, Fiskars (above) or Bahco.
Other things to look for:
- replaceable parts
- locks that can be opened and closed easily
- cushioned or rotating handles that are easier on your joints
- cut-and-hold action that holds onto the stem after each pruning
And if you're left handed, be sure to ask for a leftie-pruner!