Guide to garden cutting tools

From GARDENA Brand Ambassador Sarah the Gardener. Tree pruning can be a daunting task. However, when faced with the vast array of pruning tools in the garden section, making the right choice can be overwhelming. While a good pair of secateurs can go a long way to getting the pruning job done with little harm to the tree, sometimes it is helpful to have a range of tools for the best result. Understanding the purpose of each cutting tool will make the decision a lot easier:


These are designed to cut green living wood. They are like a pair of scissors where the blades glide past each other, making a clean cut that easily goes through the wood.


For brown dead wood, these have a sharp top blade that goes through the wood and comes down onto a metal base instead of gliding past. This helps steady the blade as it pushes through the hardwood easily. If used on living green wood, it can crush and bruise instead of giving a clean cut.

Secateurs are best suited to cutting small branches up to 25mm thick. Anything larger will be difficult to cut or damage your tools, so it helps to have something more robust.


These have long handles to help provide more leverage to cut through larger branches easily. They also come in Bypass and Anvil styles for cutting dead and living wood, and a rachet or geared feature helps make the big cuts even more effortless. Loppers with extendable handles can reach into taller trees from the safety of the ground.


These pruners have a longer reach and a thin design to get through the network of branches, making it easier to get to the top of the tallest trees without needing a ladder. They are operated by pulling a handle or string and make good clean cuts. It is worth looking for innovations such as gear and rachet mechanisms that make difficult cuts even more manageable and adjustable cutting heads so pruning can be done at the right angle. Often available in more than one length to suit your trees.

Most loppers and branch pruners are also limited to the size they will cut easily, usually around 40mm. You will need a saw if you have a large branch to remove.



The blade on a pruning saw is different from an ordinary timber saw and is designed to cut through live branches to give a good clean cut that does the least harm to the tree. A good pruning saw has an adjustable blade to make cutting on an angle easy and a locking mechanism to make it safe for the gardener. A saw that extends with a long handle can help get the job done with your feet on the ground.


If the worst comes to the worst and the tree needs to come down, then an axe is a good tool for the job. Not all axes are equal, and some are better at some jobs than others, so assess how big the task at hand is so you use the right axe, making the task easier, safer, and more efficient. Choose an axe that is well weighted and feels comfortable to hold so it will be easy for you to use.

A collection of pruning tools will make the job easier and cause less harm to the tree. When buying tools, buy the best you can afford and take care of them; they should last a lifetime. When making your selection, hold tools to see how they feel. Please ensure they are comfortable in your hand, making them easier to work with. Always clean them after use to remove sap and dirt, preventing disease harbouring.


Safety should be at the forefront of the process when tackling an enormous pruning task, especially when it involves overhead pruning and large branches out of reach. If you must resort to using a ladder, need to climb a tree or are on uneven ground:

  • A hard hat and goggles can offer good head protection from falling or loosened cuttings.
  • Sturdy, comfortable gloves and well-fitting boots will give a firm grip and helps prevent accidents caused by slipping.
  • If you use a ladder, ensure you have a comfortable reach for the area you work in. Move the ladder if necessary and ensure it is securely planted on the ground. Have someone steady it for you if necessary.
  • Be aware of what is around you, especially when working with extra-long tools to avoid accidents, most notably around power lines.
  • Always clean up the trimmings when you have finished for good plant hygiene and disease prevention and to avoid creating a tripping hazard.
  • Clean tools between trees and at the end of the job to prevent spreading disease and protect your tools for a long service life.