Employees at BB Barns use Felco pruners on the job, and yes, our names are written on them (with a Sharpie). It’s the law of the garden world. Favorite tools are flagged, labeled and tagged for that day when someone decides to “borrow” one. Here’s a list of the top five used by BB Barns staff. Trust me. You’ll be writing your name on these too.

Hori-Hori Knife or Japanese Garden Knife. 

Hori means “to dig,” in Japanese. Often called a soil knife, the blade is stainless steel or carbon steel. The one pictured below has a wooden handle, but there are many variations–brightly colored plastic handles to prevent losing them in the garden to bamboo handles. Whatever the preference, this is knife is a gotta-have. 

What it’s good for:

  • Weeding: Slicing through big and small weeds, or using the pointed tip for getting under them and rooting out.
  • Digging out tap roots: This knife is perfect for sliding under a tap root and using the handle for leverage to dislodge. 
  • Planting seedlings: Makes straight rows.
  • Planting transplants: use this over a trowel in difficult soil. The curved blade works for scooping soil.
  • Loosening soil: Especially in containers but in the landscape, too. Its serrated edge allows you to saw through matted roots or break up heavy clay. 
  • Removing roots of small shrubs: When the shovel won’t budge the roots, this thing does. 
  • Cutting roots of pot-bound plants: When plants are root-bound, use the serrated edge for cutting roots to untangle. (Roots should look like the spikes of a wheel going into the ground.)

How to take care of it:

Rust-resistant, wipe clean, dry and store. 

Hori-Hori knife means to dig in Japanese. A simple knife,  but the most versatile tool in the garden shed,  

Pruning Saw

Pruning saws are a must. Again, lots of different ones, and which one you use is personal preference. I own three, each a different size or sharpness, and are used to prune a variety of shrubs and trees. All have curved blades and cut on the draw (meaning as I pull the blade back toward me). It’s an essential tool year round and though most pruning is done in late winter/early spring, cutting out dead or diseased wood anytime is necessary for plant health.

What it’s good for:

  • Pruning any branch or shoot 1″-4″ in diameter. 
  • Cutting root-bound trees and shrubs, especially the larger ones.
  • It folds in with a lock to keep the blade in place (for safety purposes). 
  • Lightweight and better than a big pair of loppers (although you need those too). 

How to take care of it:

Wipe clean and use a lubricant. Sharpen when necessary with a diamond stone.

This Ironwood pruning saw has a slotted blade which helps with self-cleaning. Pitch and sap don’t buildup as badly. 

Collapsible Rake

Not the rake for big jobs, but this rake is perfect for smaller backyards, clean-up of plant debris, or smoothing disturbed soil in garden beds. The rake folds back up the handle making it easier to transport and store. Like the other tools, there are many variations of this one, but for the one pictured below, here are the uses and measurements. 

What it’s good for: 

  • Raking small yards.
  • Raking disturbed garden beds.
  • Adjusts in size to reach into tight spaces. 
  • Times spread out to a 22″ wide, fold to 7″ wide.
  • The handle is 40″ long to store, 60″ when in use.
  • Some of us take it camping. (Just FYI.)

How to take care of it:

Stainless steel tines, rust-resistant. Hose down, dry, fold and store.

The stainless steel collapsible rake adjusts to fit many jobs.


I love this tool so much, I give it as hostess gifts and keep extra on hand for unexpected birthdays, Christmas, etc.

What it’s good for:

  • Deadheading shrubs and perennials.
  • Light pruning.
  • Cutting herbs, vegetables, and cut flowers.
  • Keep one in the house for cutting wire, trimming cut flowers, and holiday decorations. 

How to take care of it:

Wipe clean, use a lubricant, store in dry place. Sharpen with sharpening stone when needed.

Deadheaders that also work for light pruning. Ex: watersprouts on trees and shrubs.

Felco Pruners

These are expensive but so, so worth it. They’re pruners for literally every garden purpose and every gardener: Left-handed, small hands, large hands, arthritic hands, and ergonomic uses (if you’re using them for hours on end). Each pair is numbered (#2 is the original, #7, #9, etc.) and each number corresponds to a size or use.  

What it’s good for:

  • Good for pruning any limbs up to 1″.
  • Deadheading larger shrubs like hydrangeas.
  • They rarely rust.
  • The parts are replaceable.
  • Lightweight so your hand doesn’t get tired.
  • Rarely need sharpening, but easy to sharpen when they do.
  • Locking blade. 
  • Some have a wire cutting notch. 

How to Take Care of it:

Wipe clean, use a lubricant and store. Sharpen when necessary with a diamond stone.

Felco #2 pruners are the original Felcos. These need a good cleaning, but they just finished cutting back an enormous forsythia, which will grow back by tomorrow, as we all know.

Written by Cinthia Milner, garden coach, and blog writer.

BB Barns serves all of Western North Carolina, upstate South Carolina and Tennessee.