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Allan designs and plants flowering gardens in Montreal, Zone 5 [USDA Zone 4] .

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Entries in Fiskars (2)


The Best Root-Dividing Tool for the Perennial Flower Gardener

It’s easy to botch a perennial while dividing its roots. Traditional tools such as a spade or shovel, when strategically positioned over a root clump, can slip out of place and accidentally separate a plant’s stem from its root. The intended new plant is damaged beyond repair. Similarly, the blade of a hand-held saw can tilt from its upright position, cut at the wrong angle and give us nothing but useless, rootless foliage.

These unintended and unwelcome occurrences arise when we deal with mature root balls, including those perennials that dislike being uplifted. Either the density of the roots makes them difficult to penetrate or the gardener cannot gain sufficient control over the blade to make an accurate incision. The feeling is one of frustration. Sometimes it makes a gardener feel inept.

Over the years, I’ve used a variety of products to research the efficacy of one cutting edge over another. When I began gardening, I propagated perennials with pointed and flat edged spades that delivered an unacceptable success rate of 65%.  

Eventually, I moved on to using the half-moon blade of a lawn edger. It provided better precision and my success rate rose to 80%. Unfortunately, the blade was too small and too short to slice through deep or wide root balls. In addition, when applied to hardened, woody roots or when placed upon an awkwardly shaped rhizome cluster, the blade would slip and butcher the plant.

To improve my accuracy, I experimented with a small hacksaw, a small crosscut saw, and a small narrow crosscut saw. All were too cumbersome to carry to a work site. Furthermore, they were ergonomically challenging due to the spatial clearance necessary - and not always available – to draw a toothed blade across a root clump. In time, I resigned myself to the reality that propagating dense root balls would remain an unreliable garden chore.

However, a better solution surfaced when I accidentally discovered a retractable garden blade by Fiskars marketed as a Power Tooth Sliding Carabiner Saw. Yes, its official name is a mouthful.  Intended for cutting branches, its size and shape make it an ideal implement for root ball division.

It is sold in two sizes with a ten or a six-inch blade, I chose the smaller model because it best resembled a giant Exacto knife which I’d always enjoyed using. While the smaller size offers a tighter hand control with better accuracy for my needs, I expect that the ten-inch  blade will be more productive for dividing oversized root balls. At the time of writing this blog, the ten inch blade is better value at Amazon than the six inch blade - which is available at most big box stores. In either size, sharp teeth make this a powerful and precise instrument.

I‘m able to slice through root balls with the precision of a master chef and my success rate has risen to 99 %. Yet, it is safe, portable and convenient because it is lightweight and retractable. When I shove my hand impulsively into my tool bag, I’m certain not to cut myself.

The only feature missing from this product is instant visibility. Fiskars’ customary neon orange trim that makes its collection of garden implements easy to locate, is lacking on this item. A black garden tool dropped onto brown soil disappears from view even when it is literally right under one’s nose. For improved visibility, consider adding strips of red electrician’s tape to its handle. The following photo demonstrates how I solved the problem.

I discovered this item out of necessity. A member of my staff had lost the small retractable blade used to slice open bags of soil amendments and it needed replacing. As soon as I spotted the Fiskars item, I knew it would be a versatile problem-solving tool that would make my staff and I feel competent. It’s the serendipity of occurrences like this that add to the joy of gardening.



Customer Service at its Best

Fiskars power gear hedge shears model no. 9189Last February, I took the advice of Genevieve at North Coast Gardening who had posted an article and video about a pair of power gear hedge shears made by Fiskars. Although they are actually hedge trimmers, she claimed that they were also well  suited for cutting down perennials and ornamental grasses.

Genevieve’s post was timely because; the manual hedge shears that I had been using up to that point had become a museum piece. Manufactured in the 1950’s they had been handed down to several generations of users, The handles were made of wood, the heavy blades were steel, well rusted beyond simple restoration and the shock absorbers had worn out over 20 years ago. They had become useless for cutting down perennials long ago.

It’s a strange thing about owning gardening tools. Some of us get attached to what we have and see no need to upgrade while some of us can hardly wait for any improved item that will make repetitive work easier. I never saw the need to replace my relic. It still trimmed hedges. But it occurred to me that if I were to purchase a new model, perhaps it might increase the efficiency of my employees and reduce the amount of muscle fatigue that the heavy steel shears had generated.

I ordered my shears through Amazon and started using them immediately. Wow, so this is what modern technology has to offer. The handles are lightweight composite material; there is a ratchet gear that effortlessly transforms modest pressure into intense power without fatigue and the blades slice through perennials easily. There was, however, one major problem. The blade could not cut through soft, pliable shrubbery. I had tried to trim new growth on a young cedar shrub without success.

At first I was disappointed with the advice that Genevieve had given her readers but her follow up advice to me turned out to be valuable. In our exchange of e-mails, she reported being surprised by my experience because her staff of 12 employees uses this product satisfactorily. On the chance that I had received a defective product, she explained how Fiskars customer service could help me out. She was right. Fiskars sent me replacement hedge shears as soon as I contacted them and I didn’t have to return the defective one. All I had to do was send an e-mail to Fiskars explaining the problem accompanied by a digital image of the product taken with my own camera.

It appears that Fiskars understands that nipping a problem in the bud in order to satisfy a customer is far more important and cost efficient than the  procedural bureaucracy once used by industries to process complaints. Thank you, Fiskars, for such impressive customer service.

Fiskars power gear branch lopper titanium model no. 6154 or composite material model 9154Oh, by the way, I forgot to mention that this is not my first Fiskars product. I had purchased a Fiskars titanium handled branch lopper with a ratchet gear to replace another relic garden tool: an antique rusty steel bladed branch cutter that required me to leverage force by pressing the handles into my thighs. What an endurance test that created for my employees. I had not planned on buying titanium, but the retailer was sold out of an equally powerful lopper with composite handles. I’m glad that I chose titanium. Whenever staff members pick up the new lightweight but powerful lopper they turn to me, smile and tell me how much they enjoy using the new tool and how they are amazed by its performance. Frankly, what is more amazing is the amount of force generated by these two garden tools given that they are lightweight and affordable.