Use bush and tree hand pruning tools appropriate to the pruning task. Gardeners often attempt to cut branches that are too thick for pruning shears or they take off more branches than intended with hedge shears. Employing the wrong hand pruning tools makes pruning difficult, if not impossible. The branches end up with ragged stubs that take longer to heal. Using appropriate tools maintains the plant's shape and overall health, according to Lee Reich's "The Pruning Book."
Scissor clippers are also called bypass shears, and they effectively prune branches up to 3/4 inch in diameter. As the name implies, scissor clippers employ the same cutting action as a pair of scissors, with two blades that overlap or slide past each other to make the cut. Scissor clippers allow for a clean, close cut that reduces plant injury risk.
Anvil shears serves as an alternative to scissor clippers. They employ a snap-like action where one sharp blade closes against a flat-edged plate. Anvil shears are lighter, less expensive and have replaceable blades. Anvil shears, however, will not cut the branch completely if the blades do not align precisely. The resulting stem is cut on one side and crushed on the other side.
Lopping shears prune bushes like shears, but they have heavier blades to cut stems up to 1-1/2 inches in diameter and longer handles to provide leverage. Most loppers have an anvil or scissor design at the end, but some have a gear or ratchet design that cuts branches up to 2 inches thick. Lopping shears are not recommended for pruning trees because the leverage exerted to make the cut often forces the bark on the anvil side to separate from the tree.
Hedge shears maintain the shape of hedges. They look like a large version of scissor clippers with long, flat blades and short, straight handles. They are made to clip new foliage on hedges for a more formal appearance. Gardeners often use hedge shears to prune shrubs into ball or square shapes, but this does not promote growth or enhance the appearance, according to North Carolina State University's Cooperative Extension.
Pruning saws work on branches 1-3/4 inches or larger. Pruning saws come in a variety of models, but all are designed to cut green wood, unlike carpenter saws, which are designed for dry wood. Use fine-toothed saws, or those with eight teeth (points) per inch, for smooth work on bushes and small trees. Use a coarse-toothed saws, or those with 4-1/2 points per inch for large limbs. Get a bow saw for heavy-duty cutting. Bow saws cut on both push and pull strokes.