Two millennia ago, the Roman writer Columella described the Vintoria Falx, a six-part, specialized tool for pruning grapes. What a stir this tool must have caused among Roman winegrowers when it was introduced!
A more recent innovation in tree pruning, in the last century or so, was the pole pruner, a pruning saw, or a rope-operated shear knife mounted on the end of a pole. With it you can even work on 4.5 meter high branches while your feet are on solid ground.
This is perfect for people like me who prefer not to work from a ladder.
My pole pruner is covered by both a saw blade and a shear knife, which makes the pole pruner not quite as ingenious as the six-part tool from Columella, but still useful.
MAKE THE JOB EASIER
The main problem with using a pruner is that it is difficult to maneuver a blade on the end of a long rod. The problem is exacerbated with larger branches as they require an initial undercut to prevent tearing of the bark as it falls; To make this undercut you need to work the rod against gravity.
Step into the motorized pole pruner, a 21st century innovation. This tool is essentially a chainsaw on the end of a telescopic pole. On some models, the motor or motor is mounted on top of the rod near the chain. In others, the motor or motor is at the base of the bar, where you hold the tool, with the rotary motion being transferred up the bar to the chain at the end.
Compromises are inevitable when mounting a chainsaw to the end of a pole. A compromise between weight and performance, for example.
A motorized pruner can take some of the effort out of cutting for you, but you need to position and hold the motorized saw, which sits on the other end of a long pole. Making the saw lighter means less power. The cutting sticks on these saws are typically less than a foot long.
Electric motors are lighter than gasoline engines and thus offer another solution to the weight problem. Battery performance seems ideal, except that battery performance is limited. So a wired electric pruner seems like a good compromise, as long as you’re not too far from a plug and have a good extension cord.
BECOME MORE MANAGEABLE
A variant of the pruner is causing a stir, at least in my garden. This is the motorized pole hedge trimmer, an oscillating hedge trimmer that is mounted on the end of a pole. They can also be run on petrol or on electricity.
Why attach a hedge trimmer to the end of a pole? For high hedges, of course! A nice feature of most pole hedge trimmers is that the angle of the head can be varied, a useful feature when cutting flat the top of a tall hedge.
Like stone or brick walls, large hedges create bold and venerable shapes that shield and enclose the landscape and direct our eyes and feet through it. Since I bought a pole hedge trimmer, I have been able to shape my 2.40 m high tea and chopped apple hedge into a green wall with an engraved “door” – all with happy feet on solid ground.
Lee Reich is a regular contributor to The Associated Press about gardening. He has authored a number of books including “Growing Figs in Cold Climates” and “The Pruning Book”. He blogs at http://www.leereich.com/blog. He can be reached at [email protected]
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