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Roses Are Plants Too!

Garden Tools for Rose Gardeners

Great tools for the rose gardener that won't break the bank

rose garden tools

Since it’s summer and the roses are sleeping, I thought this might be a good time to talk about some noncare aspects of roses. So let’s talk rose-gardening tools. I think after plants themselves, tools are a gardener’s second-favorite purchase. I know they are mine, not just because I love gadgets, but also because good gardening tools make garden work so much easier. There is nothing more frustrating than trying to do some trimming with secateurs that aren’t sharp or trying to weed with a tool that won’t do the job. While we all want great tools, what we all don’t want is to spend a fortune on them. That takes away from the plant budget, and since plants are our favorite garden purchase, it’s only natural we want to direct most of our hard-earned money toward them.

When I had my nursery, I always had two levels of tools. I had lots of general tools for use by everyone in the field and greenhouse, then I had my own personal tools, particularly for trimming and pruning. My personal tools were Felco—not cheap but long lasting and oh so comfortable to use. Our basic tools were Coronas. Also long lasting, but in those days not quite as comfortable as a pair of Felcos. That has changed. Corona recently sent me some tools to play with (I don’t get paid anything by them, so I have no skin in the game when it comes to reviewing their tools), and I’m happy to say they have made some significant strides in the past years. While always reliable, now their tools are more comfortable to use and feel more substantial—all while keeping the prices in a range that won’t put a big dent in our plant budget.

Below are some of the tools I’ve been impressed with and why. There is also a weeding tool in there not from Corona I’ve grown to love as well called the CobraHead weeder. I’ve had a handheld one but found this full-length one at the Philadelphia Flower Show. I’m 6 feet 2 inches tall, and I love that I can use this standing fully upright! (And yes, they don’t pay me either.)

three models of secateurs corona tools for rose gardens
Just three of many models of secateurs Corona offers. Photo: Paul Zimmerman Roses

These three models show the nice diversity Corona now offers. The ones at the far left are a more upscale model and have a very comfortable fit, even for my large hands. I like them for traditional pruning chores. The model in the middle is part of the Comfort Gel series. Comfort Gel refers to the material on the handles. It’s soft and has some give, which makes them very nice to use for chores like deadheading that require a lot of snipping. The model on the right has, as you can see, an extendable handle that folds out. Folding the handles out gives you more leverage when you suddenly run into a cane that is harder to cut than you thought it would be. They lock into place, so they don’t flop about as you are trying to use them. They are not intended to replace a good pair of lopers, but they do save me the occasional trip back to the tool shed to get mine. It’s important when buying secateurs and lopers to know the difference between bypass and anvil blades and why you should always buy bypass varieties. Bypass blades pass each other as you make the cut. This makes for a clean cut that won’t damage the canes. Anvil blades meet together and stop. While good for other uses, with roses they can crush canes. So always buy bypass models for roses.

corona loper tools
Two examples of Corona loppers. Photo: Paul Zimmerman Roses

Both of these loppers are part of the Comfort Gel series and are also easy to work with. Both have bypass blades. The top one is a basic lopper that is handy for regular pruning work. It is powerful, but you can still easily slip the blade around a rose cane. The bottom one is a beast! I’ve used it on fairly large branches on other plants, and it slices right through them. Best of all, the handles extend to get more leverage but also more reach. Other than large rambling roses, I don’t know if I use them much in the rose garden, but it’s nice to know they’re there if I need them.

a pruning saw is a good tool for rose gardens
A handy pruning saw. Photo: Paul Zimmerman Roses

No rose-garden tool kit is complete without a smaller-size folding pruning saw. There are some rose canes too thick for secateurs but too crowded in by other canes for a loper blade. This is where your pruning saw comes into play. It is also perfect for cleaning up stubs at the base when lopers can’t get flush with the crown of the plant. I like the folding kind because it can sit safely in my pocket or tool belt when I’m not using it. This saw has a comfortable handle and locks in place in both the open and shut position. There’s nothing worse than reaching for your pruning saw only to have your fingers encounter a partly opened blade.

cobra head weeders for rose gardens
My hand-held and long-handled CobraHead weeders. Photo: Paul Zimmerman Roses

I use both of the these tools all the time. The way they work is you use the blade to sweep up under the weed and cut it off below the ground. It takes a bit of practice to get a feel for the right angle and motion, but once you do these tools are a breeze to use. The shorter model is great for getting in around the base of plants. You can use it with quite a bit of precision to pull weeds without damaging the plant itself. The handle is soft and very comfortable in your hands.

blade and angle of the tool for under the weeds in a rose garden
This is a closeup of the blade and also the angle you use before you go under the weed. Photo: Paul Zimmerman Roses

The longer model is great for making a quick pass through the garden to do spot weeding. It will also do full weeding, but spot weeding is where it shines. I mulch my beds, and a regular hoe will also pull the mulch back, exposing the soil underneath. This creates more space for weeds to grow. With the long-handled CobraHead, I can simply flick the weeds out from under the mulch without disturbing it a lot. The weeder is used with a motion exactly like sweeping with a broom (a regular broom and not a push broom). As you sweep back toward your body, the blade goes under the weed and cuts it off. Once you get a feel for it, very little effort is needed. The weeder does the work! Good tools are an essential part of any gardener’s shed. While there are lots of great tools and tool makers out there, the ones above have become staples in my rose tool kit. They offer me quality at a price I’m happy with. Plus, they leave more funds for plants!

Happy roseing, Paul

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