easy does it: lightweight pruning tools (why i’m grabbing snips vs. bigger pruners)

CONFESSION: I haven’t used my pricey, famous-name pruning shears in a few years. No, the garden’s not an abandoned mess; I’ve been making dozens (hundreds?) of cuts daily in season, but not with the usual tool in hand. I’m a convert to sleek little snippers that are variously called grape scissors or needle-nosed fruit pruners, and my well-worn right hand, especially, is thanking me for the easier going.

Why waste energy over-efforting or over-powering a task? A traditional pair of bypass pruning shears might weight 8 or 9 ounces—like 224 or 252 grams—and the fruit pruners weigh like 4, or about 110 grams. Why heft twice the weight while gripping double the bulk, too? Yes, sometimes larger, stronger cutting blades are called for—but often what I am finding is that I can do most tasks with my snips, and if something’s really too big I use my favorite lightweight loppers.

Other than weight and bulk, there is the added bonus of maneuverability in my choice of the smaller everyday shears. This of it this way: Did you ever try to use a regular pair of pliers when a needle-nose was really called for? The fruit pruners are like that, something that proved a real asset the other day when I extracted the oldest wood from the top tangle of a honeysuckle that was twisted around and around onto itself and the porch post, making for tight spots to get into for each cut.

why i love ars pruning tools

My snipper journey—the path of least resistance, away from bigger pruners—began in 2014 with a gift from a reader, who had discovered ones like the orange pair at left in the photo a little higher up (no longer available). I loved those, but then I discovered the even-slimmer, more ergonomic-feeling handles of the two lookalike red styles pictured in the top photo and the one below (one has carbon-steel blades, about $15, and the other features stainless steel one, about $25). Note: prices change constantly! All three models pictured are by the founded-in-1876 Japanese company ARS.

Even my heavy, too-big old loppers got sidelined when I found the ARS “vineyard loppers” (above)–just 19ish inches long and barely 1.8 pounds. (There’s an “orchard lopper,” too, like 25ish inches if you need heavier duty, but still only 2.1 pounds. That’s about half the weight of my old guys.)

No surprise that all roads with precision cutting gear—from loppers that don’t weigh a ton but do serious work, to the 4-foot extended-reach pruner and pole saw I have relied on forever, and now a 6-foot extended-reach version, too (above)—lead to products with their label, though generally it’s not so well-known to gardeners as names like Felco, Corona or in recent years Fiskars. All those are good brands, but not as trim and light feeling in my hand. At a trade show one recent winter, an ARS dealer had mounted a whole display of their gear, aimed at the arborists and orchardists in the audience, but this old gardener pored over every last item, longingly (and came away with yet another pair of snips).

(Disclosure: Purchases from Amazon affiliate links yield a small commission.)

  1. Sue Metzner says:

    The clippers I love were recommended by oa speaker at our Garden Club. They are called “rose clippers” and they have a little extra piece of metal that holds onto the blossom or fruit rather than letting it drop. Brand is Felco (Swiss made).

  2. Kim says:

    I have just discovered on a flower farm site THE MOST amazing florist/gardening tool belt!! Handmade in leather by a woman named Wheeler Munroe. Placed my order last night! Rave reviews on all her handmade products! Check her out!

  3. Janie says:

    I like regular scissors. They fit my hand perfectly and I don’t have to keep changing hand positions. I buy them at dollar tree and use them until they are dull. They are perfect for cutting back old foliage on helleobores and epimediums.

  4. Toni Beers says:

    You forgot to mention they’re perfect for left-handed users. Also, the black band at the bottom of the handles allows me to attach them to the handle of my Trug (bushel basket) so they don’t get discarded along with the weeds and leaf clippings.

    1. margaret says:

      Yes, I am, Laura. Very few fine pruning things need more heft than these can handle, and when I need thicker stuff cut I am using a folding hand saw or an orchard lopper (also very light). I jus did all my Hydrangea paniculata with the snips, and needed the lopper or saw for a minority of the older wood cuts only.

    1. margaret says:

      Hello MB. I must have been drunk. :) (Actually I don’t even drink but I have to attribute my carelessness to something!) Thanks for alerting me; fixed it.

  5. Pam Hofer says:

    I just want to thank you for the information on the ARS snips. I bought my first pair about 3 years ago when you first talked about your favorite tools. I have had 4 pairs to date because they are pretty much all I use now!! I have arthritis in my fingers and wrists and I need the light weight and easy to use snips that these are. I’ve had surgery on both wrists now and these are the only ones I can use currently in my right hand. My husband steals them from me for our vegetable garden so he has his own pair now!! The next thing I will get will be the loppers!! Can’t wait. Pam H

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