It's that time of year again... the weather warming up, bringing out the many colours of the flowers in the garden, birds making nests in the bushes for their next generation of fledglings to sing their morning song that wakes us up with a smile each and every day. (this weather won't last long if history's anything to go by... in fact, I think it's starting to snow now...)
So, as the weather warms up there's no doubt that the garden begins to grow too, with the grass needing a cut, the hedges needing a trim and the conifers need a few inches taken off the higher branches.
And it is the trimming of the conifers that I am going to try and ease you through here today, hopefully helping in what is the tedious job of ladder climbing, out stretching and, sometimes, falling off onto the grass below.
The way to ease the job of trimming the conifers without trimming years off your life is to use something that is called a lopper, with the lopper I have been using being the Bacho telescopic lopper.
* I can hear you asking what on earth a lopper is..?
A lopper isn't something that the armed forces use to detect landmines, nor is it a hat the posh spice has put her name on. And it's not a character from the next Shrek movie that may be coming out just before Christmas this year....
A lopper is in fact a tree cutting device that is designed to 'lop' branches and overhanging tree bits that may be a little too trick to cut with a small pair of trimmers.
* So what does this lopper look like then..?
If you take a set of hand held hedge trimmers and combine them with a pair of long handle wire cutters then the result may be something like this... in a way.
They are a good size, being about 650mm long, from lopping tip to the end of the handle. Then extends to a nice 900mm in order to get to the harder to reach branches that need lopping.
The handles are made of steel tubing, which maybe hollow but is as strong as the proverbial ox, so to speak. The actual blades are made of what they call high grade steel, which in turn is 'fully hardened' in order to make the cutting edge last longer.
The actual cutting edge is housed in a moon shaped solid metal construction at the end of the lopper, with this section being in two halves as one half slides over the other half in order to give that cutting stroke.
Just behind the moon shaped cutting edge there are two rubber pads which are in the right place to stop the lopper from closing too much so that your hands don't get trapped in the handles as you slam them shut.
* How do you use a lopper..?
To get these to work properly you do have to use both hands, one on each handle, opening up the handles in order to get the cutting edges, or 'jaws', over the branch you want to cut, or lop, as the technical term goes.
Then, once you have the 'jaws' over the branch, and with a bit of brute force, you push the handles back together. Which, in turn, forces the 'jaws' to bite onto the branch and steadily slice through the wood.
The good thing about these loppers is that they are extendable, which is as easy as it sounds. It is a simple matter of a little twist of the handle, more in the centre, then you slide the tubular handles out, twisting them back the opposite way to lock the handle back into its secure position.
Simple. You now have near a metre of manoeuvrability. It's just a shame I can't extend my arms as far.
* Are they any good..?
If you have over hanging trees, such as conifers in my case, that seem to grow over night, leaving a mass of fresh lime green coloured twig like branches everywhere, then this lopper can get at those over hangs and trim them away with very little effort at all.
Plus, as they have extendable handles, there's no real need to be stretching out like a monkey on an invisible trapeze, so, putting your life at risk, as you stand precariously on the top of a wobbly ladder for the sake of a few twigs, is a thing of the passed
The actual cutting mechanism does exactly what it is supposed to do, and it does it in a very east way indeed, although a little bit of elbow grease is needed on those thicker branches.
And, to top it all, or should that be to lop it all, the cutting edge, or blade, can be taken off if it becomes damaged and replaced with a new one, which is a good idea as blades can be damaged over time.
* What do I think of this lopper..?
I have used these many times, even with the rather tragic weather that we suffer in the good old United Kingdom, and what seems like the rainiest part of England itself. When I have used them they have not let me down one bit, being able to chomp through a 25mm branch without any real struggling, even managing to make its way though a 40mm piece, although I have had to do a bit of twisting and rotating in order to deeply score the branch before the blade can get right through it.
They're pretty lightweight, so there's no real hassles when it comes to a little stretching as I'm trying to get to the harder to reach branches, and as they can be extended with the slightest of effort, I really can get at the more stubborn parts
The actual cutting edge, the blade, or how ever you want to look at it, is a well though out little piece of mechanical genius. The way it manages to get the cutting edges around the branch that you want to cut without it slipping way from the grip and sliding about like a drunken woman in high heals on an ice rink, at night.
To be honest they look pretty funky, well the ones that I ended up buying do anyway, as there are other versions of this one that are a boring black in colour, where as I ended up with these orange coloured ones as they were on sale at a very reasonable price, very reasonable indeed.
The colours are on the handle, the little rubber section that split's the extendable tubular bar and the actual pivot mechanism that attaches to the cutting edges. The rest of the lopper is your standard silver steel colour that we are all used to seeing.
The colour isn't really important as it does not effect the ability of the lopper but it's nice have a little colour in the garden shed.
Using these really does half the time when it comes to lopping those over hanging parts of few conifers that are growing quite happily in my garden, trimming the over hanging parts that I really don't want to be there. I just either extend the handles, climb up a ladder, open the loppers and begin lopping away until I'm happy with the results.
* So how much does this lopper cost..?
There are many loppers out there with an array of price tags, some being more than £100, which are you top of the range ones that not only lop the branch but also munch it up into a sort of pulp and then carry it to the compost heap, (although that may be a little exaggerated). Then there's the cheaper brands that you can pick up at the pound plus stores. The ones that snap in half the first time you try to lop through a lollipop stick.
Then there's this one, which is more your mid range version, that does exactly what it is supposed to do at a reasonable price, that price being about £40 to £50.
* Is it worth the money..?
Well, that depends on whether you have a bush that need neatening up... (oeerrrrrrr, misses...), or whether you have a garden that has a few twigs that blow onto the grass from the field on the back.
If it is the first then these will come in handy every time you want your bush trimming, or your conifer tops lopping, as using this is a lot easier than trying to get to the tops with a pair of scissors whilst your stop on the top of a step ladder.
But, on the other hand, if it's the second on the list, with the twigs from the field, then there's no need to get these as you've got no conifers to lop or bushes to trim.
So think carefully before you lop off to your local garden centre on the hunt for these loppers.
Garden Hand Tool Category: By Pass Lopper / Telescopic lopper with handles made of silver aluminium tubes, extendable from 65 -90 cm. The special locking system locks/ unlocks with just a quarter-turn. The lopper has an exchangeable rubber buffer, comfortable bi-material grips made of orange polypropylene and soft black thermoplastic elastomer. The blade with slicing cut is made of high grade steel, fully hardened and exchangeable.