Pruning trees
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Cutting Tools: Reducing the canopy

From Sarah’s garden to yours

Garden pruning becomes particularly challenging when presented with a big, old tree, or a young tree that has raced away and grown out of control. Thankfully, there are tools that can make tackling these trees more manageable and accessible for gardeners who want to care for their large trees themselves.

Safety should always be top of mind and your first consideration, especially when pruning overhead or when cutting large branches beyond your arm-span reach. Using a ladder or even climbing the tree can seem like obvious options, however if the ground is uneven or the gardener less than nimble and surefooted, this may not be advisable at all, and may even result in injury. 

Fortunately, there are pruning tool solutions available that can be used with your feet firmly and safely on the ground. Branch pruners and long reach loppers are designed to reach right up into the tree and prune as easily as secateurs with clean, sharp cuts. There are features to look out for when deciding which tool is right for you. The most obvious one is how high does the branch pruner reach, so you can be sure you can get to the top of your tree. Many are telescopic for longer reach, so they are comfortable to use at a range of heights. Others can be extended by swapping out the handle for an even longer version. 

It is worth looking out for innovations to make a potentially difficult job easier. Rachet or gear mechanisms will make cutting larger branches easier, and battery powered models can make your pruning jobs effortless. A branch pruner with an adjustable cutting head will help make precise cuts on an angle that suits the tree, that would otherwise be difficult to reach and a branch removal hook will help clear cut, loose branches from the tree canopy so keep an eye out for those features.

Pruning saw

For large branches however, it may be necessary to get up close and tackle the job with a saw. A pruning saw is distinctly different from a wood saw since the blade is  designed in a way that goes through live branches with a good clean cut that does the least harm to the tree.  

To assist with making a good cut, look for a blade that is adjustable, with a good locking mechanism, so the job can be approached from the best angle to ensure your safety. A longer saw or one that can be extended with a longer handle can help get the job done with your feet firmly on the ground. 


If worse comes to worst and the tree needs to come down, then an axe is a good tool for the job. Choose an axe that feels comfortable to hold and is well balanced so it will be easy for you to use. Not all axes are created equal, and some are better at some jobs than others so assess how big the task at hand is and choose your axe accordingly. This will make the task easier, safer, and more efficient. Before you start, make sure you do your research so you know how to safely fell your tree.

Once you have chosen your tool, get your safety equipment sorted before you go into the garden. A hard hat and goggles offer head and eye protection. Sturdy gloves and well-fitting boots will give a firm grip and help prevent accidents caused by slipping.

If you do have to use a ladder at some point, make sure you have comfortable reach for the area you are working in. Move the ladder often if necessary, and make sure it is stable and securely planted on the ground at all times; enlist a helper to steady the ladder if you have to - wobbly ladders are not safe.

Be aware of what is around you, especially when working with extra-long tools, to avoid accidents, especially around power lines. Keep pets and children well away from your working area.

Always clean up the pruning debris when you have finished or as you go, to avoid creating a tripping hazard, but also for good plant hygiene and disease prevention. It is also good practice to clean your tools between trees and at the end of the job, and simple, ongoing maintenance of your quality tools will ensure long term performance and longevity. 

Your trees will thank you for your care with beautiful canopies offering shade and beauty.

Pruning a tree