Of all the thousands of pieces of gardening kit you can buy, only one item is truly indispensable. Every gardener needs a decent pair of secateurs, whether it’s for a couple of pots on the balcony or a landscaped stately home.
With the May Day bank holiday fast approaching, it’s time to think about pruning. This year’s Chelsea Flower Show may have been postponed until September, but that’s no excuse not to perform a thorough Chelsea chop.
While they might seem like a simple tool, there is still plenty to think about when choosing a pair of secateurs.
There are three main types to choose from: anvil, bypass and ratchet. Anvil secateurs are best for more heavy-duty work, such as cutting thicker branches or wood. They work by pressing the cutting blade onto a flat surface, like a hammer and anvil.
Bypass blades are like a pair of household scissors, with a cutting blade that passes over another surface. These must be sharpened and are best for light work. Finally, ratchet scissors are spring-loaded, to help get through tougher material.
Beyond that, it’s important to consider how strong you need your tool to be, your hand size and whether you are right- or left-handed. A large, strong right-handed person will need something different from a diminutive lefty.
The below is our selection based on a survey of newcomers and trusty old favourites, which we tested in the course of giving our small inner-city garden its annual spring refresh. We trimmed back a sprawling apple, a few errant roses and an obstinate rosemary, among other shrubs and flowers. We were mostly looking for cutting ease and hand comfort, but we have a soft spot for stylish design, too. Happy chopping.
You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps us to fund journalism across The Independent.
Niwaki mainichi secateurs
Niwaki’s mainichi secateurs have become standard issue for millions of gardeners in Japan, and it’s easy to see why. They have a classic design, a lovely clean action and an eye-catching simplicity. Between form and function, these were our all-round favourites – every gardener should have a pair.
Felco model 8 classic secateurs
Another premium pair of secateurs from a prestigious international firm. The Swiss know their way around a blade, as anyone who has one of their army knives will attest. These bypass scissors are tough, comfortable to use and come with a lifetime guarantee, so you can cut with confidence. At the time of writing, they are on sale with a free pair of gloves.
Niwaki GR pro secateurs
The Rolls-Royce of secateurs, Niwaki’s GR pros have plenty of features that make them worthy of a recommendation. These bypass secateurs are drop-forged in Sanjo, northern Japan. They are strong, beautifully designed and well balanced, and will handle most garden tasks with ease. The drawback – as with a Roller – is the price. But if money’s no obstacle, or it’s a gift for that green-thumbed associate, you can’t go wrong here.
Stihl PG 25 anvil secateurs
The Germans love their gardening almost as much as the Brits, to go with their reputation for great engineering. These Stihl anvil snippers are at the higher end of things price-wise, but they are strong, with a no-nonsense design that should stand you in good stead for many years. The bright orange handle is easy to spot in a pile of detritus, too.
Felco model 32 anvil
Our pick of the anvil models, Felco’s model 32 shears aren’t the cheapest, but they are big, strong and reliable, although perhaps best suited to slightly larger hands. With Felco’s lifetime warranty and replaceable parts, should there be any wear and tear over the years, these are a great investment for any gardener.
Darlac compound action pruner
Lighter and smaller than some competitors’ models, these pruners are perfect for a smaller town garden or a terrace, where they won’t be needed for so much heavy-duty chopping. Their lever helps with cutting, and at around £13, they are also significantly cheaper than some of the other options listed here.
Burgon & Ball left-handed bypass secateurs
Designed specially for left-handed gardeners, but otherwise made to the same spec as Burgon & Ball’s other products, these have a carbon steel blade, come approved by the Royal Horticultural Society and can cut up to 2.5cm width. Ned Flanders would approve.
Opinel le secateur
The only French entrant on our list, these are an elegant, timeless pair of bypass secateurs for the gardener who wants to look stylish as they rein in the roses. Farrer & Tanner also offers an engraving service, should you want to personalise a pair as a gift.
Fiskars solid pruner bypass M P321
Fiskars “solid” range comes exactly as promised. These are no-nonsense, affordable bypass secateurs that will handle most small pruning jobs with ease, with an eye-catching orange handle. Perfect for the less intensive gardener.
The verdict: Secateurs
For those who love Japanese simplicity, the Niwaki mainichis have a smooth action, clean lines and a bright yellow grip so they won’t get lost in the woodpile.
At the higher end of the market, Felco secateurs – the model 8 classic secateurs and model 32 anvils – are great all-rounders that are smart, sharp and reliable. We especially liked their anvil design pruning shears, which made quick work of a few troublesome branches in the tester’s garden.
At a lower price point, try the Darlac compound action pruners.
For discounts and offers on gardening equipment, try the links below:
For more gardening gear, check out our roundup of the essential garden tools, from lawnmowers to watering cans
IndyBest product reviews are unbiased, independent advice you can trust. On some occasions, we earn revenue if you click the links and buy the products, but we never allow this to bias our coverage. The reviews are compiled through a mix of expert opinion and real-world testing.