Here’s how to use a pole pruner in your garden this spring – Chicago Tribune

If you frequently need to prune large shrubs or small trees, a pole pruner can be a useful tool.

“It can extend your reach to trim small twigs and branches so you may not have to climb a ladder,” said Sharon Yiesla, a plant knowledge specialist at Morton Arboretum’s Plant Clinic.

A pruner mounts a large shear head—like the blades on your bypass shears—at the end of a long pole. The blades are attached to a gear mechanism so you can cut them by pulling a rope.

Some pruners have wooden poles, but fiberglass poles — which can often be extended to as much as 12 or 14 feet — are much lighter. Many pole pruners allow you to remove the shear head and use the handle for a saw attachment, making it a long-handled pruning saw.

“A pole pruner seems sophisticated, but it’s actually difficult to use and has limitations,” Yiesla said. “It takes some practice to use it well.”

“It’s a tool you only need if you need to cut right above your head on a regular basis,” she said. For example, you might find a pole pruner handy if you have several dwarf fruit trees in the 10 to 15 foot range that need pruning every year. For pruning larger trees, it is best to call in a professional arborist.

A pole pruner can come in handy if you have woody vines like clematis or wisteria that grow on a large trellis, or if you have large evergreen shrubs that need to be tidied up often. It can be used to cut epicormic shoots, also called water sprouts, from the trunk of a large tree.

A pole pruner can extend your reach to cut small branches, but it can be awkward and difficult to use.

Only use a pole pruner to cut small branches no larger than half an inch. “It’s tempting to try to cut larger branches, especially with the saw attachment, but don’t do it,” she said. “The tool is too cumbersome to make a big cut well.”

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You risk leaving a large, ragged wound that can admit disease or decay. If the blades get stuck, you have to damage the wood by loosening them. A large branch is also heavy and can be dangerous if it falls from above.

Wear safety goggles to protect your eyes from falling twigs and sawdust when using a pole pruner, and wear gloves to protect your hands from rope friction.

To use the secateurs, only pull the pole out as far as necessary. The longer it lasts, the harder it becomes to control.

Stand to one side, not directly below where you plan to cut, so you can see what you are doing and are unlikely to get in the way of the falling branch. Remember that branches can bounce and fall unpredictably, so stay alert.

“You won’t be able to place the pruners as precisely as a pruner or pruner,” Yiesla said, “but try to make the cut as close to the base of the branch as possible.”

Place the branch in the gap between the two blades. When you’re ready to cut, support the pole with one hand; Propping it up against your body can help. Wrap the rope around the palm of your other hand for a good grip. Then pull.

“As with all secateurs, it’s important to keep the blades on a pole pruner sharp,” she said. Since you probably won’t be using the tool often, it’s a good idea to sharpen the blades before putting them away and wipe them down with oil to prevent rust.

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For tree and plant advice, contact the Plant Clinic at Morton Arboretum (630-719-2424, [email protected]). Beth Botts is a staff writer at the Arboretum.

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