THE MODERN MINT BLOG
The tools I recommend? I get asked this a lot, so thought I would write here so people have an easy reference to check over, and then make their own choice.
What To Look For In Tools?
I recommend tools that are robust, strong, but balanced. They must have great steel too, so that it can be sharpened.
This does not mean the most expensive, or the shiniest, but the tools that actually do a great job for you when you are out in the garden clipping. I use to buy cheap tools, my theory being I would just lose them somewhere in the garden, so what was the point of spending more money on something so easy to leave amongst the leaves or tip into the middle of the compost heap, to be gone forever?
But cheap tools are a fool’s game – they won’t cut as easily as tools of decent quality, making the work harder for you.
Pruning should be a pleasure, should be fun to do. You need to invest once in something that will last you a long time. When I finally did this, an odd thing happened – I found I cared more about my tools, and so no longer lost them in the garden. I took care, and so saved lots of money in the long-term!
So For Tools, I Recommend…
Okatsune, which you can get from Niwaki amongst other places. The red and white handled 21″ shears and the standard secateurs.
They are robust and do everything you need, from detailed clipping to something a little wilder and angular…
Niwaki also do a range of tools by a maker called Tobisho – these are exquisite! I have his Barracuda clippers.
For years I used Tobisho’s curved shears but sold them last spring because, although brilliant, I do a lot of teaching and they are sort of a cheat code – the crescent blades made it too easy to make ‘organic’ topiary shapes and I wanted students to see that you could make any shape just with a ‘normal’ pair of shears. Your technique has to be strong but the tools don’t really matter.
Then for yew I use a Stihl hedge trimmer, battery powered. I switched to this in the last two years. Not perfect but strong enough and the balance is good. I use the short-handled HSA 86, as well as a long-handled one.
Finally the Silky hand saw is my pruning saw of choice.
Keep everything sharp and clean and that is pretty much all you need.
The key to good topiary and pruning, once you have the tools, is imagination and time – the time to allow it to grow, and provide you with enough material to prune it well.
Finally, Sharp Tools Are Also Recommended Because…
Another great thing about decent tools, sharp steel, is that if you do cut yourself, the cut will be nice and clean. So a finger becomes easy to reattach.
My one and only accident, with a Silky pruning saw from Japan (note the blood on the wellies and trousers after leaving hospital.)
The teeth landed in my arm like an axe splitting a log. Healed up fast, back at work a week later.
And I’m much more careful and respectful now…
Hope this helps, and happy pruning to all! If you wish to get some help with your topiary or the pruning in your garden, then please do take a look at a small selection of what I can do, either in the Artisan series or on this very website…
Guanock House needs a trainee topiary artist! Some of you may know it as the first home and garden of designer Arne Maynard, but is now owned and maintained by Michael Coleman and his wife Michelle. They offer meditation workshops and retreats there and it is as beautiful a house and garden as you could wish to visit. They called me in last Autumn to help shape up some of the topiary as it was all getting out of hand, but what it really needs is someone with a steady hand and lots of patience to take over the clipping …
Here are some photos of work I have been doing at the garden of Charlotte Molesworth in Kent. Snow and ice brings out the depth of the different planes and angles carved into the boxwood. A garden has to look beautiful in winter – and topiary (green architecture) helps do that! For more topiary pictures, click here.
I am an experienced teacher of topiary and pruning, running workshops in the topiary garden of Charlotte Molesworth in Kent, as well as for The English Gardening School and The European Boxwood And Topiary Society. So if you are a keen gardener, a garden club, a group of friends who want to know more or even an absolute beginner who has been bitten by the gardening bug, then do contact me about what you might like to learn. What a laugh we are having in this workshop session I ran for a group of friends in Essex… Many people employ …