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Hedge Shears. Tips from Professionals

Hedge shears are tools that many have in their garden toolbox. These scissors-like tools are also known as hedge clippers and are one of the secrets to these finely trimmed, crisp garden hedges you see in parks and public places. But as simple as it may seem, I often get questions about it how to use and choose one.

Hedge Shears:

Hedge shears are garden tools commonly used to shape and trim decorative plants. Use a fast sweeping motion to make even trims around the bushes while avoiding using only the tips of the blades. This helps to gain better control over individual branches. Together with the long and sharp shears, this results in a straight-edged level cut.

In this article, I will explain more about using hedge shears and some other options you have to cut your hedge. Finally, I will give some tips on choosing a hedge shear.

How to use Hedge Shears:

Gardening professionals at the Royal Horticultural Society recommend using hedge shears to create various unique shapes and boundaries for both formal and informal purposes. Like me, they also recommend using them in a fast sweeping motion to make even trims around the bushes while avoiding using only the tips of the blades, as this may blunt the tool.

Nevertheless, most experts suggest using a hedge shear with strong, sturdy, long handles that do not cause fatigue or muscle injury. It is important to use hedge clippers only on non-woody parts of the plantation as the bark is difficult to trim using blades, and it may cause damage to the tool or the user.

What Do You Use Hedge Shears For?

Hedge shears are primarily used for shaping and pruning leafy, thin branches that are too thin for a saw to cut.

Based on their functionality, they have multiple gardening applications, such as:

1. Shaping Hedges:

Hedge Shears are an excellent tool for creating the shapes one wants, whether a straight-edged hedge, a curvaceous bush, or any other form that might seem attractive.

2. Cutting Perennials:

Perennials are ever-green plants that grow indefinitely in a garden. This growth pattern makes them seem untidy, and their rampant expansion rate might hinder sunlight for other smaller plants.

It is essential to trim these perennials every once in a while. Hedge shears can keep these plants in proper shape and boundary to look presentable while also allowing other plants to seek sunlight.

3. Removing Damaged Foliage:

Plant edges and leaves at the tips tend to wilt and dry, making plants look rusty and lifeless. Hedge shears can help maintain an excellent look for such plants by cutting off the wilted ones at the edges. It helps provide new buds to get a chance to sprout and keeps your garden tidy.

4. Trimming Topiary Designs:

Gardeners with an eye for aesthetics know the importance of always keeping their hedges crisp and tidy. Hedge shears are perfect for this job as they allow gardeners to trim how they want to without affecting the shrubs’ overall health. The sharp blades and manual control will enable gardeners to do the job.

5. Trimming Low-lying Branches:

Low-lying branches from lower trees can cause hindrances, mainly if they grow near footpaths, roads, or buildings. These branches should be trimmed to avoid inconvenience for pedestrians and vehicles on the road. They can also be hazardous if they grow near electric poles. A hedge shear could be used to trim down these low-lying branches.

– Caution:

Hedge clippers have numerous benefits and applications in a garden, pruning trees, harvesting herbs, shaping topiary frames, etc. However, ensuring proper care while using this tool is important for the user’s safety.

I recommend using a clean and sharp blade to avoid injury and ensure the cutting can be done easily. Avoid trimming woody branches and being too thick (more than 2 inches), as this can damage the cutting blades. For those branches, use a small chainsaw.

What is the Best Tool to Cut Hedges?

There are a variety of tools that can help trim and tidy your lawn hedges. They can be divided into two main types: the first is hand tools like shears and clippers, and the second is powered tools (trimmers).

The best tool to cut hedges depends on the type of hedge and your goal. Whether you’re trying to trim overgrown hedges, prune small leaves, or trim woody or live branches, there’s a tool specially built for that objective. These tools can be shears, secateurs, loppers, hedge trimmers, and chainsaws.

Based on your hedge types and the trimming objective, the following are the recommended tools to achieve an excellent result.

For More Control – Cut hedges with Hand Tools:

1. Secateurs – For Small Branches:

Also called pruning clippers, secateurs are manual tools to trim small non-woody green stem branches. They are also used to prune leaves cut partially by shears.

2. Shears – For Shrubs & Bushes:

Shears are the traditional manual tools that help trim shrubs and bushes with their long metallic blades. Shears allow the operator or gardener great control to cut and shape the hedge the way they want. Their long blades help keep maintain straight and level edges.

3. Loppers – For Thick Branches:

Loppers resemble pruning shears but have larger blades and handles. They are ideal for thick woody branches that are hard to cut with secateurs.

4. Telescopic Tree Puners – For Tall Branches:

Consider buying a pair of telescopic tree pruners to trim branches that are at a height. These tools provide a greater reach (about 20 ft) for taller branches without requiring a ladder, thus ensuring more safety and control.

For Fast Results – Cut hedges with Powered Tools:

– Electric Hedge Trimmers:  

Electric hedge trimmers use a motor-operated blade to cut faster, saving time. Depending on the price range, they can come with a cord or cordless. Cordless electric hedge trimmers are heavier because of the batteries and need charging during the job if you have a lot of work.

Corded hedge trimmers are the cheapest powered trimmers, but they need a cable long enough to reach all required areas, and you have to be careful not to cut the cable.

– Gas Powered Hedge Trimmers:

Gas-powered hedge trimmers are less common but generally more powerful than most electric or battery-powered models. They require much more maintenance and are well-suited for large jobs. When low on gas, they can easily be refilled with almost zero downtime.

Gas hedge trimmers are an excellent choice to trim thicker branches and thorny overgrown hedges, which would take plenty of time if done by manual shears. They are not environmentally friendly and will be noisy.

– Chainsaws:

Chainsaws are robust cutting tools best for trimming thick branches (more than 2-inch dia) and trunks. If you are a professional, consider investing in it as it provides heavy-duty support and enables you to handle all kinds of cutting jobs. While buying a chainsaw, also acquire the necessary training to handle it, as it can be a dangerous tool when misused.

My Advice:

I would advise you to have a complete set of hand tools (shears, loppers, secateurs) if you need to frequently trim and tidy up your smaller garden. These tools offer great control and precision than powered ones. Also, this would ensure that you have the best tool at your disposal for a particular type of plant.

If you have a large garden, consider buying a powered hedge trimmer. If you’re new to such machines, an electric or battery-powered trimmer would be ideal as it’s easier to handle, an electric one is lighter, and both almost require no maintenance.

What Do You Use to Cut Hedge Branches?

With hedge shears, branches are trickier to cut than leaves and saplings, as the woody bark requires greater force and sharper blades to be spliced and trimmed. However, there are also other tools that you can use to cut hedge branches without needing a lot of force or damaging your tools:

  • Pruning Shears: Pruning Shears are manual shearing tools for smaller branches 3 to 4 inches wide. Any branch thicker than this should not be cut with a pruning shear.
  • Hedge Shears: Although limited to shrubs and bushes, hedge shears can occasionally be used to trim low-lying branches. However, sweeping methods and sharper blades are required for this.
  • Powered Shears: Gas or electricity-powered shears are perfect for tree branches with tough, stubborn bark. Their horsepower and blade velocity assist gardeners in chopping off unnecessary and untidy branches with minimum force and effort.
  • Chainsaw: Some gardeners avoid using powered shears to cut branches. Instead, they prefer using a chainsaw to cut off the needless branches that might hamper the garden’s overall pleasant sight or restrict the supply of sunlight and water to smaller plantations beneath them. For smaller gardens, a battery-powered chainsaw can be an excellent choice.

However, most homeowners and landscapers prefer using manual equipment for their numerous benefits and zero carbon footprint. A manual tool takes more time but generally gives a great and rewarding result. But speed and efficiency will require gasoline or electric-powered hedge shears to cut thin tree limbs.

How Do I Choose a Hedge Shear?

There is not one ideal hedge shear for all situations; it greatly depends on the task you need to perform. Making the right choice is essential if you want your garden to stand out and look appealing. Precise cutting and accurate trimming come from making the right decision.

You must keep some features in mind before choosing your hedge shear. Let’s look at them:

1. Blade Material:

You should always consider the quality of the blade material. High-quality, durable stainless-steel blades are often ideal for hedge shears. Such sharp blades are light in weight, sleeker, and do not rust easily.

Sharp blades require less force than blunt ones. I also recommend using blades with a non-stick coating to prevent them from adhering.

2. Blade Length:

Length is an essential criterion to remember when choosing your hedge shear. The length controls the leverage and cutting power of the gardener on the hedge.

I recommend using longer blades of nine to twelve inches for efficient and faster working and shorter blades of up to 6 inches for more detailed jobs.

3. Blade Shape:

Different blade shapes are used for different plants. Straight blades are perfect for straight cuts, while curved ones are generally used for landscaping and decorations.

They provide ease of shaping that straight one lack. A millstone can easily sharpen straight blades, whereas curved ones grip the twigs firmly.

4. Shear Handle:

Since using a hedge shearer requires constant manual work, the handle must be good quality and comfortable for longer durations. Most handles are wooden since they provide significant friction and prevent the slipping of hands during use.

5. Shear Weight:

I recommend choosing lighter shears for ease of work, particularly when lifting the shears above your head. More lightweight shears, especially those made of aluminum and stainless steel, are easy to grasp, use and trim hedges, and don’t cause muscle fatigue as much as heavy ones.

6. Shear Cost:

Consider all these features before selecting a hedge shear for your garden. Discussing your situation with your local garden store and explaining your circumstances is never bad.

Generally, I do not recommend choosing expensive shears. Even a moderately priced hedge clipper can work wonders.

What Kind of Garden Shears Do I Need?

First, identify which plants you would like to trim. For small herbs and bushes, hedge shears would be an excellent choice. For medium-sized branches (up to 6″ in dia.) I would recommend a pruning saw. And for really thick branches and trees, choose a chainsaw.

A hedge shear will suffice if you have a small home garden. If your garden is more extensive and houses some trees, I recommend purchasing a pruning saw, as it helps keep those slightly thicker branches in shape. If your garden has multiple trees, you should invest in a chainsaw as it helps prune thick branches and can also be used to fall dead trees and obtain lumber from fallen logs.