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April 13th 2016

Tools of the trade: 7 essential farmer-florist tools to snip, chop, prune and lop

Written by
Floret

I have a pretty laid back approach to most things, but there are a few hard and fast rules the team and I abide by when it comes to the tools we use for day-to-day operations.  One of them revolves around the importance of using the right tool for the job, especially when it comes to sharp objects and anything used to cut, chop, snip or lop.

I learned it the hard way.  In the early years, I was pretty sloppy with our tools.  I would grab whatever was closest to harvest flowers, trim stems, and snip wires. I ruined a lot of expensive clippers in the process.  And I also almost ruined my hands.  I was young and felt invincible, but after hours of repetitive work, day in and day out, carpel tunnel slowly started to creep in.  The pain was a real wake up call and I knew I had to make some serious changes in how I operated.

The experience definitely made me appreciate the fact that my hands are one of the most important tools for farming, designing, writing, and well, just about everything I do, so keeping them safe and healthy is essential.   I now have some pretty strict rules about what cutting tools are used for each job. No more shortcuts.  No more cutting chicken wire with my floral snips. No more oversized, heavy clippers for harvesting.  No more excuses.

Here are my top seven tools I use on a regular basis to cut, snip, chop, prune and lop:

wire cutters, floral wire and paddle wireWire cutters: Chicken wire is essential to most of my floral designs–I use it almost exclusively to support the stems of my flowers and give the designs a more natural look. I also use standard floral wire for boutonnieres and a few other floral design elements. Cutting all that wire can be quite a job—a job for a good pair of wire cutters! Flower snips are, as their name suggests, great for clipping flowers.  They are NOT, however, made for cutting wire. Sure, a great pair can do it.  But they really shouldn’t do it. And trust me when I tell you: just don’t do it.  Using flower snips to cut wire is a surefire way to –at best–dull your blade–or at worst, bust it.  Save your hands and your tools from a lot of stress by investing in a good pair (or two) of good wire cutters. I use large, industrial-strength wire cutters for chicken wire and smaller wire cutters for boutonniere work.

Floret_snipsFloral snips: After my battle with carpel tunnel, I made it my mission to find the right flower clippers for the job. After trialing dozens of different pairs in the flower field, I finally found what I consider to be the perfect flower snips. They are lightweight, stay super sharp, and are perfectly shaped to rest in the palm of my hand.  The thin, pointed blades are ideal for harvesting delicate flowers like sweet peas and ranunculus, but also handle thicker stemmed varieties such as dahlias and zinnias with ease. After I started using these with more regularity, I didn’t have aching wrists or sore hands at the end of the day. After   fielding dozens of requests for them, we started offering my favorite snips in the Floret Shop along with our signature farmer-florist toolbelt.

Floret_Cutting_Tools - 8Ribbon scissors: Every bridal bouquet we create is a serious labor of love. I babied the blooms from seed, planted them into the field as baby plants, fed them lots of good stuff, protected them from weeds, harvested them and then lovingly arranged them into a lush, fresh-from-the garden design. The final step before handing the bouquet over to a jittery bride: wrapping the stems with pretty hand-died silk ribbons–the perfect finishing touch to this floral work of art. Perfect, that is, IF you can cut the &%$#@! ribbon. Hint:  Floral snips don’t work. Neither do standard office scissors.

There’s nothing more frustrating than trying to finish a bridal bouquet and grabbing a pair of snips to try to trim the ribbon, only for it to fray because I don’t have the right scissors. Ribbons, like any fabric, require specialized scissors to be able to get the nice smooth lines for your fishtail or angled cuts. Using anything other than fabric scissors (which you can find in most craft or fabric stores) to cut your ribbon will likely mean mangling and fraying it and frustrating you. In the Floret studio, I have our ribbon scissors  marked so that they’re easily distinguished from paper scissors.  And I lay down the law when it comes to their use–they absolutely, positively, no-exceptions granted, can NOT be used to cut flower stems or (gasp!) wire.

I always have an extra pair of ribbon scissors and wire cutters in my Wedding Flower Emergency Kit and my snips and pruners are always close- at-hand thanks to my new handy-dandy farmer-florist tool belt given to me by a friend.  Other essential cutting tools I have around the garden and studio include:

Floret_Cutting_Tools - 1 (1)Pruners: Similar to my situation with flower snips, I struggled to find pruning shears that won’t tax my hands and wrists but can still handle the heavy-duty cutting jobs in the garden and flower studio. After testing dozens of pairs, I finally found some smaller-sized, but heavy-duty pruning shears that I love.  The ultra-sharp blades and sturdy handgrips make them ideal for pruning woody stems like roses, shrubs and trees – they can cut through thick branches like butter!  Even though they are strong enough for heavy-duty garden work, they are also compact and lightweight, making them perfect for women seeking an alternative to the heavy, giant-sized pruners built for burly landscaping dudes.

Floret_Cutting_Tools - 2 (1)Loppers: Heavy duty, long-handled loppers are an essential tool to reaching some of my favorite flowering branches like crab apples, viburnum and foraged lilacs, which smell so sweet.

Stem Cutter:  Also known as “the guillotine,” this serious stem cutter is an essential tool for florists and flower farmers alike. Attached to a table in our studio, it makes quick work of bulk cutting of stems in one smooth movement. We use it to trim & “even out” the stems of our grocery bunches before packing them (you can actually watch me use our stem cutter in the Martha Stewart American Made video).  It’s also great for giving bunches of flowers a quick trim prior to design work–which also helps to prolong vase life. For designers, its the first thing they use when processing flowers in preparation for storage or design. This little tool has saved us tons of time and wrist-ache and no studio is complete without this essential tool. You can find them from floral supply companies and also on Amazon.

Soil /Hori-Hori Knife:  Japanese for “dig-dig,” a hori-hori knife is an essential tool around the garden that we use all the time for digging, sawing and dividing plants with ease.  One of the most versatile tools for gardening, this thing can be used for transplanting, weeding, opening plastic bags and cutting twine.

Do you have a favorite cutting tool that’s not on the list? I’m always on the hunt for new treasures, so please share what you love below.

30 Comments

  1. Preserved Flowers on

    Totally agree, having the right tools for a job is so important – scissors are not for cutting wire with!

    Reply
  2. Mercedes on

    I am wondering what stem cutter you like best? I’m finally investing in line to save my poor hands that are getting sore, just like youSpoke about in this blog.

    Reply
    • Team Floret on

      Yes, protect your hands, Mercedes! Stem cutters are great; we don’t have a particular favorite brand or manufacturer. We’ve had ours for years!

  3. Alkire Leanna on

    Thanks for sharing this great information.
    nice post.

    Reply
  4. Mary Smith on

    With the right tools, anyone can turn these beautiful blooms and greens into stunning arrangements! Thanks for sharing the blog, I absolutely loved it.
    http://www.floracraft.in/

    Reply
  5. [email protected] Experts London on

    I can’t agree more with you – there is no place for excuses when it comes to tools to use in the garden. Also, I love how you’ve arranged the tools in the pictures, I always appreciate the small things and those red tulips are gorgeous!

    Reply
  6. Kelly on

    Hey there! I must say this is an amazing share and frankly saying I just loved it

    Reply
  7. Katie Pence on

    I love this, as a estate gardener, flower farmer for over thirty five years, plus through three kids. My felco number 2’s can cut a thicker stem, larger anvil, than the #8,#9. But I think loppers are heavy and a pain to carry through a large garden. I love my folding saw, felco, silky or ARS. I put the felcos in one back pocket, blade up, and saw in the other- wa la hands free ! Also a long reach ARS pruner I find indispensable. Also easier to wield than the loppers ( have to use two hands, not one, dangerous on ladders).
    Gardening boots for women have been another lesson over the years. I love my Ariat ropers. They have a steel shank where you put the shovel or fork that protects your foot. They are lightweight and have good arch support. Red wings make great heavy duty boots but are hard to put on and take off.

    Reply
  8. Gift Jaipur on

    Its having a great article to read and giving me a great knowledge of flowers,thank you.

    Reply
  9. Michel on

    Thanks for this! This is just what I needed :)

    Reply
  10. Anthony @ Expert Tree Services on

    Every profession comes with its tools and skills. I agree that florists can’t make it without the various cutting tools they use to maintain and cut the flowers they take care of. We also use these tools, but to take care of trees when needed. The loppers are very good for bigger dead branches, and the pruners are great for the smaller twigs. Thanks for sharing these awesome posts, I always find something useful in here!

    Reply
  11. Flowers for party on

    Thanks for sharing the nice blog about 7 ESSENTIAL FARMER-FLORIST TOOLS TO CUT, SNIP, CHOP, PRUNE AND LOP. I really enjoy reading your blog.

    Reply
  12. [email protected] Home Flower Delivery Guy on

    One of my most loved instruments of exchange I should say is my darling Felco pruners. How might The world be without this sweethearts Items of exchange. They genuinely Keep me Jovial in the field. Trimming and Shaping

    Reply
  13. Patrick on

    One of my favorite tools of trade I must say is my beloved Felco pruners. How would The world be without this darlings Items of trade. They truly Keep me Jovial in the field. Trimming and Shaping

    Reply
  14. Portland Florist on

    Thanks for sharing the hard and fast rules for day to day operations! Liked it!

    Reply
  15. Kee-ju on

    Have mercy on the soul that uses the ribbon scissors for anything other than ribbon!
    Any recommendations for knives/hori-hori’s? We are in the market for a new one and would love to know brands and models that people enjoy.

    Reply
  16. Heather on

    Hello Erin: After spending 20+ years in the floral trade, my favourite tool is my Swiss floral knife. Yes, I have been guilty over the years of using it instead of many other tools that I should have been using. It is a short blade which trims up stems with control, so you don’t have too many scars at the end of your career. We were taught to cut not snip our flowers to clean cut them at a cellular level and not to crush the cells in a scissor type motion with snips. I’m going to be doing lots of testing to see what works best through the season. I’ll let you know, happy flower season, Heather

    Reply
  17. Linda Q on

    My favorite hand pruners are my Leyat Swiss NL6 that I purchased from a vendor at a Master Gardener’s symposium. I am a short lady and these fit my hands perfectly… And they are yellow. These may come in a larger size for those of you with bigger hands. All of my cutting tools get washed at the end of the day to remove any gunk from the day’s use. I also keep a bottle of isopropyl alcohol on hand to serialize the blades when needed during the day.

    Reply
  18. Sophie Roberts (@sophiemostly) on

    I also have a Japanese Hori Hori knife – they are so handy for slashing bags open, weeding and planting smaller plants.

    My secateurs and snips are Felco no. 6 which are great for smaller hands like mine and really sharp. It definitely pays off to choose something that fits your hand size.

    Last but not least, I love my genus gardening trousers with their waterproof bottom and padded knees!

    Reply
  19. Laura on

    No favs yet, still trying tools out, so this is a great list to check out. Thanks!

    What do you use for cleaning/sterilizing your tools? I’m pretty lazy when it comes to cleaning mine but have vowed to reform, hopefully soon. :)

    Reply
  20. Susan Collard on

    I love my Japanese Cutting Shears for doing more detailed trimming.

    Reply
  21. Heidi @ Willow Lane Flower Farm on

    My favourite pruners are my Felco #2’s. I also have a fiscar spring loaded snip pruner very similar to your snips. My fav loppers are also fiscars, not the anvil style, but the same shape as the pruners. It pays to have quality tools for gardening and working. It saves so much effort. Yes it’s a hard hit when you look at the price, but they will last a really long time if you take care of them.

    Reply
  22. Julie on

    I’m trying to subscribe to your newsletter but I’m not able to confirm the link. I keep getting a message that says can’t find an email address id. What should I do? I recently found your website and I’m so happy because it has inspired me and given me the confidence to move forward with my idea to “live life as I imagine” and start farming flowers! I’d really love to receive your newsletters!

    Reply
    • Floret on

      Hi Julie–
      I just double checked and your email address is currently subscribed to our newsletter. Welcome! Have a great growing season!

  23. Linda Q on

    One of my essential cutting tools has to be my Barnel serrated landscape and harvest knife. It works great for cutting back perennials and general garden clean-up. After reading your post I will have to get a hori hori knife!

    Reply

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