JoAnne Skelly: Potential gardener present

I have a confession to make. For years, I have spoken disparagingly about people who prune their plants, particularly junipers, into little green meatballs with power hedge trimmers. However, recently I borrowed my friend Roni’s electric hedge trimmer and I think I’m hooked. I had seen her pruning her lavender plants with it last year. It took her about 15 minutes to prune all the dead flowers off her plants while it took me hours to do mine by hand, cut by cut.

So this year, I got wise. No more aching hand after squeezing pruners hundreds of times. With a quick “how to” lesson, Roni showed me how easy it was to use her trimmer. I was surprised at how lightweight the little machine was. I was a bit leery about waving around something sharp with an electric cord attached, since I’m known for moving too quickly without paying attention. My husband doesn’t usually let me anywhere near power tools! But he wasn’t home, and I completed pruning the lavender and every other perennial nearby, coreopsis, sedums, bluebeards, geranium, Shasta daisies and catmints, without a single mishap. They all looked so smooth and even when I was done. I was thrilled.

My only problem was, I needed a longer extension cord to get to more plants further out in the yard. My husband came home and said there are cordless power trimmers available that should still be light enough for me to use. They run on the same size battery as his drills and other tools. This probably is a safer bet for me so I don’t cut a cord.

I still don’t believe in pruning junipers, barberries and other woody plants into green meatballs; although I can see how a person might get started with one of these trimmers and power prune just about everything in sight. It’s hard to stop when things look so neat and tidy when you get done. It is so quick and easy to prune and shape this way.

If you have a gardener on your gift list this season, you might consider getting them a power hedge trimmer. Roni’s has a 17-inch blade. When I look on online, I see many different kinds, such as cordless long reach models, or gas-powered ones. If you look to purchase one, consider cutting power, maneuverability, balance in the hand and distance from an outlet for corded versions. Maybe I will get one for Christmas!

JoAnne Skelly is Associate Professor & Extension Educator, Emerita at University of Nevada Cooperative Extension. She can be reached at


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