Rumor has it there’s a secret password to freely get inside every arboretum, conservatory, and botanical garden in the United States.
It’s only spoken in a hushed whisper, but right here, right now, you’re going to read that password in print for the first time ever.
That password is: Felco F-2.
Okay, you got me. There is no secret password. But if there was one, you could bet your bottom dollar that it really would be Felco F-2.
As far as pruners go, there is no other choice for the beginning, serious, or professional gardener. These things can be used for cuts up to 1 inch in diameter, but are still articulate enough to prune roses.
What you’re about to read isn’t a formulated draft put together after a mere weeklong, hands-on review of these pruners. Any number of websites can tell you about their forged aluminum construction and reliable durability.
Instead, this here is a firsthand account of a guy beating the hell out of his work tools on a daily basis as a professional landscaper and gardener.
Now, let’s get to it.
Your Introduction to the Felco F-2
I received my first pair of Felco F-2 pruners in November of 2016. The preliminary work I put them through was intense, but it was pretty standard for landscaping work.
I pruned branches here and tree limbs overhanging driveways there, snipped a few pieces of wire for holiday decorations (the F-2 has a built-in and functional wire cutter), and cut back some dried out perennials.
One of my first lessons as a landscaper was that a good gardener takes care of their tools. So, as common practice, I treated my pruners like they were a delicate doll.
Imagine my surprise when I saw a coworker using his F-2s as a hammer, banging in the tension pin on a grass rake! My look of concern was met with a shrug, and I tentatively began using my own pair as a light-duty hammer too.
I’ve used my pair of pruners in such a way that it voids any potential warranty: driving bamboo stakes into the ground, pins into place (like the ones on a grass rake), and opening plenty of beer bottles (it took me a while to figure that one out).
During the Christmas season, when I pruned thousands of branches from sticky, sappy Christmas trees, the F-2s never hiccupped. Even when the blade and anvil of the pruners would get gunked up from sap, they still administered crisp and clean cuts.
As New Year’s came and went, I placed my pruners near my work boots and gave them a much-needed rest until spring came.
The Real Test
As of this writing, it’s been exactly 171 days since the landscaping and gardening season officially began in Philadelphia, and I’ve put my pruners through 172 days of absolute hell.
Imagine the typical punishment a gardener’s tools are put through in a standard garden: there are perennials to cut back, trees to train, roses to prune, stakes to cut, and twine to trim. Now consider performing that kind of work for fifty hours a week and the toll it takes on the tool!
My trusty Felco tool has literally been at my side, along for the whole ride. Seriously, I feel like I’m a cowboy putting away my six-shooter when I holster my pruners. (If you like the look, Felco holsters are also available on Amazon).
They’ve pruned through thousands of branches and stems, and only require some very basic maintenance.
The F-2 breaks down into 12 pieces very easily, and can be reassembled quickly. It is sold with a special key that can be used to adjust the tension on two of the screws, while the last remaining bolt is easily adjusted with a ½-inch wrench.
I’ve used a bit of steel wool and oil to clean the blade and metal parts of built-up gunk, then sharpened the blade once a week using a standard whetstone. During the week and between pruning jobs, I use isopropyl alcohol to clean the blade and anvil.
Alright, since we’re being honest here… I have definitely voided any potential warranty that Felco offers.
My pruners have been used as a hammer, used without regard to precipitation, dropped from high heights and used to cut swaths of grasses and lilyturf, sliced through thick-gauge wire, opened bags of soil and mulch, and cracked open plenty of beers.
The Felco F-2s have proven themselves to be a pruner capable of handling a tremendous workload reliably and without any fault. Throw in some basic maintenance and sharpening practices, and you’ve got yourself a garden tool worth its weight in saffron.
But Wait, There’s More!
I didn’t tell you where I got my pruners, did I?
The F-2s have a pretty hefty price tag for a hand tool, about the same as a dinner for two at your average restaurant.
After moving to Philadelphia, I simply couldn’t afford to buy this vital tool.
Fortunately for me, a coworker happened to have a second pair. So he gave them to me, “looking out for the new guy,” as he said. And he told me the story of where he found them.
This coworker was walking on Germantown Avenue in Philadelphia when he spotted a pair of Felco F-2s lying in the street. If you aren’t familiar with Philadelphia, consider yourself a townie now that you know Germantown Avenue is one of the most heavily trafficked streets in the city.
Classic F-2 Pruners from Felco, available on Amazon
So he picked them up and brushed off the worst of the damage and brought them home, throwing them on a shelf in his garage. And then, after a few years of sitting and waiting, he gave those bad boys to me.
These were beat up when I received them, scuffed and scratched and clearly well worn. They incurred damage on a heavily trafficked street in one of the most populated cities in the United States. And then, these pruners were ruthlessly tested and worn-in for the above-described 171 days.
And they’re still kicking ass.
The F-2 clearly stands out as a workhorse in the garden, capable of finely pruning roses and then taking one-inch limbs and branches off of that crabapple that’s getting crowded over the driveway.
And all the while, you can use them to hammer in stakes, beat in rake pins, and cut wire for your holiday needs… and all that with just a little basic maintenance.
The next time you go to an arboretum, conservatory, or botanical garden, whispering “Felco F-2” might not save you the cost of admission. But it will certainly earn you a knowing nod and show of respect from anybody working there.
You might not need all that the Felco F-2 can provide, but the Felco F-2 can provide for everything your garden needs.
A final note: When this article was written, my Felco F-2s were used to hand prune 60 American boxwoods for a client. This is my official thumbs up.
Have you used your Felco F-2s to the same success? What’s your favorite tip for household pruner use? Tell us about it in the comments!
Photos by Matt Suwak, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Additional product photos via Felco.
About Matt Suwak
Matt Suwak was reared by the bear and the bobcat and the coyote of rural Pennsylvania. This upbringing keeps him permanently affixed to the outdoors where most of his personal time is invested in gardening, bird watching, and hiking. He presently resides in Philadelphia and works under the sun as a landscaper and gardener, and by moonlight as a writer. An incessant questioning of “Why?” affords him countless opportunities to ponder the (in)significance of the great and the small. He considers folksy adages priceless treasures and is fueled almost entirely by beer and hot sauce.