From grand Victorian and Edwardian gardens to today’s beautiful botanical garden specimens and common garden hedges, topiary has been around for centuries. Mazes are a grand version of topiary, for instance.
A fun hobby for those who love gardening, or just fancy getting a bit creative outdoors with a pair of shears, doing topiary well requires specialist cutting tools to ensure the shapes appear as planned.
But we don’t all have an artistic streak and for many gardeners, they depend on a reliable pair of topiary sheers for helping them deadhead plants, shape border edges and even cut through overgrown thick grass. In other words, topiary shears are an item every gardener could do with hanging in their greenhouse.
If you are planning on doing a little trimming or hedge and branch cutting yourself soon, then you’ll want to have a decent pair of shears. You may be just about to take up the hobby, or perhaps your current pair have finally given up the ghost. Either way, we’ve carried out some in-depth research on topiary shears for you.
Last update on 2020-12-05 / Affiliate links / Images / Pricing from Amazon Product Advertising API
We’ve looked at the sharpness of the blade, ease of use, weight, length, cost and, of course, quality. So before purchasing your next pair of shears, take a read through the following:
Light-weight and accurate shears that the professional gardener will treasure
Made from chrome-plated high carbon steel, the ARS-KR-1000 Ultra-Light Professional Shears are our top choice. The high-quality materials these shears are produced from, in addition to the sharpness of the blades, make these an outright favourite with gardeners. They’re also pretty neat looking.
The handles are ergonomically designed so that it’s possible to use the shears for a long period of time without discomfort or tiredness affecting the hands. In this respect, the ARS-KR-1000 shears are excellent for large-scale projects or those which take up a lot of ongoing time. The handles of the shears are also considerable length-wise and this, in turn, gives excellent leverage when in use.
The parts of the ARS-KR-1000 shears are replaceable but these will keep looking good for a long-time anyhow due to the chrome plating (which will prevent rust). The shears are easy to clean, but this must be done carefully and whilst wearing gardening gloves since the sharpness of the blades can easily cut through human skin. Certainly, they can handle twigs up to 10mm thick with very little effort.
- Light to handle
- Most parts can be replaced
- Very sharp so can cut through most shrubbery
- Blades come with a protective sleeve
- Has shock absorber built in so there is less impact on the hands
- Expensive to buy in comparison to most other shears
- Extremely sharp so easy to cut yourself when cleaning the blades
A great value for money choice which does exactly what it says it will – and more…
The ergonomically-designed Razorsharp Advantage Topiary Shears are our value pick. Manufactured by Spear & Jackson – a well-known global brand – these shears are marketed at both professional gardeners and amateurs. The blades are made from high-quality carbon and the handles have a soft grip.
These are a pair of shears which are sharp and can manage both small twigs and large branches – although not great for very thick branches. They have even been used successfully to cut the fleece from sheep! These have a safety lock catch to make them safer to store (however, this can also make them difficult to open at times, as well to close).
Although most gardeners find these shears excellent, they can prove too heavy and difficult to move for those with arthritis in their hands.
- Soft grip handles for extra comfort
- Blades made from high-quality carbon
- Great for general gardening use such as cutting and edge trimming
- Safety click can prove a nuisance when opening
- Handles are made from plastic
A quality pair of garden shears guaranteed to produce a first-class job
For the professional gardener, the Japanese-produced Okatsune 217 shears are lightweight and extremely sharp. In fact, the steel used for the blades is the same as that used for swords.
These blades are also long, which allows for greater accuracy, as well as the ability to prune in small and tight spaces. Not only that, but this allows you to penetrate deeper into the shrubbery and make light work of a large surface area.
The handles – which are 300mm long – are made from white oak wood which is known for being able to absorb vibration. The lightweight nature of the Okatsune 217 shears – just 800g – means they can be easier to use for gardeners who can’t lift heavy objects, such as those with arthritis, or for green enthusiasts who like to keep cutting for hours at a time.
Overall the design of the Okatsune 217 is very simple and this results in ease of use. They are also extremely durable and expected to last for years, especially since the parts can be replaced.
Finally, these are the favourite gardening sheers in Japan – a country in which topiary is a much-treasured and valued art form.
- At 175mm the blades are long so good for accuracy
- The lightweight nature – just 800g – means it can be easier to use for gardeners who can’t lift heavy objects
- Izumo Yasugi steel blades (the same as Japanese swords). These are razor-sharp making the task so much easier.
- Has a leather sheaf to protect the blades when not in use
- Blades are extremely sharp so care must be taken when handling and cleaning, in particular
- Instructions are in Japanese
An excellent set of shears to make life easier for the everyday gardener
Darlac’s Expert Topiary Shears are well-made and comfortable to use for long periods. They are lightweight so fine for older people to use – those whose wrists may not be particularly strong and have difficulty holding standard shears for any length of time. The blades are 17cm in length and the length of the shears in total comes to 34cm.
Many gardeners find these shears good value for money since they provide a good cut – both for large areas and intricate cutting – without costing a fortune in comparison to other gardening shears.
- Safety catch to prevent cuts to the skin
- Includes a pouch to store the blades when not in use
- A sturdy pair of shears which won’t get damaged easily
- Blades are very sharp so have to be handled carefully – even when removing from the packaging!
A good pair of garden shears which even garden celebrities have been spotted wielding
A sharp pair of shears, the Jakoti Hand Shears are excellent for cutting through thick grass, weeds, attempting topiary and deadheading more than one bloom at a time.
Made from high-carbon steel and being self-sharpening, the blades are also good for sheep shearing. Both Gardener’s World presenter Monty Don and Telegraph gardening writer Helen Yemm have been spotted using them.
The handles sit seven inches apart when opened and have been designed ergonomically. They are also fitted with a low-tension spring for ease of use.
Because the blades are made of stainless steel they will have a tendency to rust. As a result, they should be stored carefully – cleaned and oiled after use, before being wrapped in brown paper. Alternatively, a spray with WD40 then a wipe also does the trick.
They are longer than secateurs and more pointed so will enable you to get right into plants and even root out the odd weed. Highly recommended.
- Excellent for cutting and trimming all kinds of foliage
- Good for gardeners with small hands (as well as those with ‘average’ hand size)
- Prolonged use can cause blistered hands
- Not great for those with arthritis in their hands
- Being made from steel they’ll rust unless looked after
- The clip which holds the blades closed can fall out of position and prevent the blades from closing together
How to Use Topiary Shears
Topiary shrubs – evergreens such as box, yew, privet and holly – look fantastic when shaped expertly. They can bring a smile and sense of awe to passers-by and raise an ordinary garden to something rather extraordinary. Certainly, a little creative talent is necessary in order to achieve the amazing shapes that can be achieved, but the proper tools are key.
Topiary shears are long-handled in order to allow you to add the pressure necessary to chop through thick stems and branches. The length also aids precision cutting for difficult to reach areas. These are good for gardeners who are older and less mobile since it means there’s no stretching or kneeling involved.
The best type of topiary shears have blades which are slightly angled. This allows you to cut in the direction you want using both sides of the blade for neater slicing.
Trimming and training box shrubs
Box shrubs are one of the most common types of evergreen used for topiary purposes. They are easy to trim but do require a lot of looking after. That’s because they don’t fare well with a lot of water or sunlight and could fall resistant to ‘Box Blight’ which damages the leaves, giving them a yellow appearance before they fall off.
If the shrub does become very dry it’s a good idea to dip the shears into a bucket of water with a few capfuls of bleach and scrub them with a scouring pad. This allows you to remove the dry bits that stick to the shears more easily. Once you’re finished you will then have to clean the blades and rub them with WD40 or similar in order to prevent the detergent from rusting them.
To do the job they are designed to, the blades of your shears must also be sharp. Some shears (such as the Jakoti, mentioned in our review) are self-sharpening, but the majority must be manually sharpened. This can be achieved using a specially-designed knife sharpening stone or a diamond sharpener. The shears must always be sharp to ensure the stems are cut cleanly and not just crushed.
Box topiary in UK gardens should only be trimmed from the month of May through to August. Cutting in May will allow for side shoots to grow and it is these you can trim into shape during the summer, with the final result evident in August.
Trimming: a step-by-step guide
New shoots – which are a paler green shade than the rest of the plant – should be cut back once they are up to 10cm in length. These should be cut back to two leaves from the base of that new shoot.
Then it’s a case of trimming lightly until the basic form of the design starts to show through. Balls, pyramids and cubes are the easiest shapes to start with for the keen ‘topiary beginner’.
Sometimes it helps to put chicken wire around the shape and then simply trim once leaves start to come through the shape. Constant trimming means the actual shape remains. For the top of the topiary, the shears should be kept at a level angle.
As time goes on and the shrub ages it will grow bushier and the branches and leaves become denser, giving the shape more form and making it appear much more solid.