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Things to Consider When Buying Gardening Shears

Updated on April 27, 2013

Cutting Shears for the Garden

There are some things to consider when buying gardening shears, and the most important may be what it is you plan to cut. If one thing is certain about a cutting tool for your lawn and garden, it is that quality matters. Having owned several pairs of shears over the years, I can tell you that they are not all created equally.

Shears are one of the tools for your garden that you only need once in a while, but when you really need to cut something well, there is simply no substitute.

If you spend most of your time cutting fresh flowers, a bypass pruner is your tool.
If you spend most of your time cutting fresh flowers, a bypass pruner is your tool. | Source

Cutting Stems and Branches

The first thing to consider is what you plan to cut most often. Is your landscape full of shrubs and other woody plants that will need to be cut from time to time, or will you be pruning softer things like rose canes and other tender branches? Or, do you just need a sharp cutting tool to collect fresh-cut flowers from the garden to put in your favorite vase? Depending on your answer, there are some things to consider.

Fiskars 91095935J 10.75" Bypass Pruner
Fiskars 91095935J 10.75" Bypass Pruner

When it comes to the classic bypass shears, the Fiskars traditional model is the way to go.

This is my most-used cutting tool throughout the year, as it is light enough for delicate tasks yet strong enough to pull some extra weight. I can't be without this tool.


Bypass Shears vs. Anvil Shears

There are two types of garden shears that you are likely to find at your local garden center or nursery - bypass and anvil. The difference between them may seem confusing at first, but it is really not difficult to understand.

Bypass garden shears look similar to a pair of scissors, with two blades that pass by one another and beyond to cut a branch cleanly. If it looks like a really thick scissors, it is a bypass cutter.

Anvil garden shears, on the other hand, have a single blade that stops on a flat metal surface. This is more like a knife cutting on a cutting board, and they are easy to spot since the blade and flat surface that the blade lands on are so different.

The benefits of a bypass pruner is that it makes a cleaner cut, and it is preferred for something like cutting flowers, since the stems will be clean-cut and attractive. Most gardeners who set out to buy garden shears will end up with a bypass pruner. The downside is that a bypass pruner used to cut tough or woody stems will dull quickly, and is easily damaged or can end up out of alignment, destroying its ability to make a clean cut.

The benefits of an anvil pruner is that it's tougher and more durable that a bypass pruner. This is a workhorse that was made for woody plants and larger stems, and it will hold up much better under those conditions. The downside here is that a delicate cut needed for cut stems of tender plants or flowers will get mauled by an anvil pruner, essentially tearing at the stem.

For growing grape vines, a bypass pruner will work well, but the woody vines may be cut best with an anvil pruner.
For growing grape vines, a bypass pruner will work well, but the woody vines may be cut best with an anvil pruner. | Source

The Best Garden Shears Style

The style that is most suitable for you depends on your usage.

If you plan to cut fresh roses and flowers, or prune away tender suckers form your favorite flowering crab each spring, a bypass pruner is clearly the way to go. The cuts will be clean, and it will hold up nicely.

If cleaning up woody roses or small dead tree branches is a common task for you, an anvil cutter is the tool of choice and will make you much happier now and over the long term.

The reality for most gardeners is that they have both of these tasks to do annually in the garden, so a combination of shears in the garage is necessary. Then, no matter what the job is, the proper tool is at hand.

Locking Garden Cutters

Another feature that is important is the built-in locking feature that most garden shears come with. Pay attention to how this is accomplished as some use a lever that locks into place, while other rely on a hoop that must be placed over a hook or peg. There is really no right or wrong, as long as the cutting tool locks closed in some way. Since the tool can be sharp, a lock of some kind is really a must-have feature.

Fiskars Power-Lever Anvil Pruner
Fiskars Power-Lever Anvil Pruner

When you need the power of an anvil cutter for dead branches of woody plants, this is the classic Fiskars anvil-style model to choose. It is a quality tool that will cut through that tough branch easily.


Handle Size and Length

I use garden shears for so many reasons that I have found the handles are as important as any other feature. As before, consider the task that you will perform most frequently before deciding which model to buy.

For deadheading flowers or cleaning up thin stems, there is no question that a comfortable but simple handle is most comfortable. The resistance level of the shears also plays a large role, since this type of cutting means that the blades will be opened and closed many times quickly. For this job, a lighter tool is just more comfortable, and the handle can be shorter without causing any issues.

When it comes to pruning more serious thing like small stems or dried or woody plants, a nice thick handle that provides some leverage is important. Using a tool with a slight handle for these jobs will leave the palm of your hand in pain. A handle that is a tad bit longer will also give you more power when cutting.

Great Little Garden Tools

When it comes to filling the garden shed with necessary tools, most people start with rakes and trowels, but a suitable garden shears is an important tool that will last for many years. Now that you know which type may work best to suit your needs, add a quality pair to your tool collection.


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    • Alison Graham profile image

      Alison Graham 

      5 years ago from UK

      Thanks for the great tips on choosing the correct tool for the job when it comes to garden shears. We also have a pair of Fiskars bypass shears and find them excellent. I will be investigating the softgrip shears you recommend too as I like the idea of being able to take them apart to clean them after use.


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