Top Choice Tools of the Pros

Mon., Sep. 12, 2022

By Mary Lineberger, Gardener

Installment I

Disclaimer: Any brand names mentioned or pictured in this article are not an endorsement. They are the preferences of individual garden and tree care professionals.

No matter what you’re doing, having the right tool for the job makes it efficient, easier, and more pleasant. The right tool helps us focus on the task and experience the joy of doing it. There are so many wonderful tools and gadgets used in gardening. I asked a few of my colleagues what tools they value most and why. Here’s what I found out…

Lorinda Laughlin, a Gardener at Holden Arboretum and expert floral arranger, finds these bypass floral shears essential. They are compact, sharp and the handles are large, allowing you to use them with gloves. She mentioned liking the short blades –allowing you to get the desired, clean cut without harming surrounding stems.

One of our arborists, Jake, who works at both HF&G campuses introduced me to this cool looking apparatus, the Petzl Zigzag. It’s constructed of aluminum, steel and nylon. I won’t go into the physics of how this works, but it is essential to Jake’s climbing tasks and safety. The ZIGZAG is a mechanical Prusik (a friction hitch or knot used to attach a loop of cord around a rope) which allows him to move around in a tree with precision and fluidity. Jake climbs high into the trees with a chainsaw, handsaws etc. and needs trusty, sturdy, reliable tools to do his job.

The gas-powered hedge trimmer – when the material you’re cutting is too thick for a weed whip this is the tool for the job. It can be used for very tall growth and the blade can be positioned from 90 – 180 degrees. Here’s Horticulturist Rob, tackling a weed and invasive vine infested fence. Rob is tasked with renovating our core natural areas and finds this tool essential for cutting through large amounts of grasses or clearing stubborn new growth.

Bernadette, a Gardener and certified arborist at CBG loves her Silky Zubat 330 Handsaw, pictured here with her soil knife, a runner up to her favorite. She likes this one because it is super sharp, cuts quickly with minimal effort and is more stable because it doesn’t fold. It’s manufactured in Japan and she often uses it where others might use a chainsaw.  “I absolutely make sure I have it if I’m doing any sort of bigger pruning job. I love it! I originally started using it when I was a tree climber, now I won’t buy anything else!”

This little gem, measuring about 3.5 ft. belonging to Dawn Gerlica, our Senior Horticulturist, is popular with many who have used it to work the land here at Holden. Known as a shark tooth spade, drain spade, serrated shovel or just, “The shovel we all fight over.” As one of our volunteers called it. It is perfect for digging into hard soil. There are no plastic parts, all welded metal except for the tough rubber foot treads which are bolted on. With the well-worn blue paint and toothed blade this tool has rustic charm as well.

It was a pleasure talking with my colleagues about tools and plant care. Stay tuned for the 2nd installment of “Top Choice Tools of the Pros” where I’ll investigate the hori hori vs. the soil knife as well as the beauty and simplicity of certain tools.

Mary Lineberger

Mary Lineberger


Mary Lineberger is a Gardener in the Helen S. Layer Rhododendron Garden. Previously she was Garden Manager at The Cleveland Museum of Natural History as well as a seasonal hire at Holden in 2015 and 2016. She is pictured here with Norman, who before joining Mary’s family, was a scrawny stray wandering the woods surrounding Holden Arboretum.


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