The best garden hand pruners are made by Felco, Corona, and Fiskars, and the hands down industry standard is the Felco bypass pruner. Any of these major brands will set you back $75-$100 or even more, and yet buying a good name brand pruner is worth every penny. No self-respecting landscape professional would buy anything less.
Why would anyone be that picky about a garden hand pruner?
First, of all the tools in a gardener’s arsenal, few have more moving parts than a hand pruner. A cheaply made pruner will break before you get a decent season’s wear out of it, and you can’t really repair a cheap pruner effectively. You have to throw it out.
If the pruner simply breaks and must be replaced, that is aggravating enough; but hand pruners are sharp, and so you are always faced with the possibility of personal injury if your cheap pruner snaps apart unexpectedly while you are applying pressure.
Second, hand pruners have to be sharpened regularly in order to cut cleanly. A cheap hand pruner will not accept repeated sharpening; the blade will quickly become thin and will crack or break with use. If the blade breaks during sharpening, you are lucky. If it breaks during use, once again you face the possibility of personal injury.
Just as dull knives cause more injuries than sharp ones (because of the extra and unnecessary pressure applied to compensate for the dullness), cheap dull hand pruners injure more gardeners than sharp professional-quality pruners.
Last of all, sharp pruning blades and clean working parts are essential to healthy pruning. Pruners that leave jagged edges, that rust, or that can’t be cleaned well or used without excessive force can injure trees and shrubs and infect open wounds on bark with diseases and other problems.
When pruning any tree or shrub, the ideal cut is a clean, smooth, and flat. If you have to chew through the branch you are pruning, you are either using a cheap pruner or the wrong tool.
So look for one of the major name brands when buying a garden hand pruner, and while you are at it purchase a holster for the blade that you can attach to your belt while you are working. This keeps the blade rust-free and clean, and keeps the point of the blade from stabbing you in the thigh or butt when you shove it into your pants pocket.
Plan to spend more than you want to spend, and then push yourself a bit and spend a little more than that. Always buy from a reputable shop, preferably one that will also be able to repair and sharpen your name brand hand pruner when necessary.
Spending the money required to buy a professional grade hand pruner will serve you well in the long run. Your pruner will last for years, your plants will be healthier, your will be able to learn and execute effective and correct pruning techniques, and you will learn how and why using the right tool makes all the difference when it comes to doing a good job.
Plus, when you walk into a garden center with a Felco garden hand pruner in a holster on your belt, you will be taken seriously and treated with the respect you deserve.
Who doesn’t want that?