Tool I Use for Ornamental Grass Cutback, Perennial Cutback (spring or fall), Hedges

Yaku-Jima-Japanese- Silver-Grass is just about the most beautiful and carefree of the ornamental grasses. It adds charm to the landscape in all seasons and is never invasive.

I’m now in the process of cutting them back. I do a few each day, so I won’t have to “make it a job”.

To keep these grasses looking their best, it’s best to cut the old growth before new growth begins in the spring.

Another bonus of this grass is that the blades of grass are soft. They won’t cut you like many of the ornamentals do.

Use to Hate This Job

I didn’t realize it then, but it was because I was using the wrong tool. You’re probably wondering why it took me a couple of decades to get the right tool.

I’ll explain.

Most of the tools we worked with for years were tools we inherited from the previous owner of the property where we first gardened. Most were of poor quality.

For more than two decades we hardly made enough to survive (as detailed for you here) much less buy new hedge shears. There was no use in even complaining, because it was either use what we had or the job didn’t get done.

After many years of establishing this mind set, it never occurred to me that I needed anything any different than the tool I had, even when we were making enough to buy new shears. The ones I had weren’t broken, so why would I need a new tool?

I just happen to read something one day (I don’t even remember what it was) that caused me to have an ah-ah moment about using the best tool for the job. Then I researched hedge shears.

My Choice – ARS HS-KR1000 Hedge Shears

After reading specs and reviews on many, I decided on the Japanese made HS-KR1000  hedge shears which are used by many professionals and botanical garden staffs.

They’re made to cut soft plant stems like new growth on hedges, ornamental grasses and various other perennials with soft stems.

HS-KR1000 resting on top of the grass I just finished cutting.

One of the Sharpest Landscape Tools

The steel from which they’re made is superior and is treated to stay sharp for a long time. I’ve had mine several years. They still cut as when they were new and I’ve never sharpened them.

One of the reviewers on Amazon, said that he’d been using the same blades for 20 years! Once a year he gives the blades a “quick touch up” (sharpens) with a water stone K1200 grit. (Blades can easily be removed to sharpen.)

ARS is a Japanese company that is known for the sharpest landscape tools that with proper use and care will stay that way, at least for a very long time.

The blades are replaceable if need be.

After each use dry the blades and clean (if dirty). Then lightly oil the steel. This prevents rust and helps keep the blades sharp and the shears looking brand new.

Long Handles – One Piece

Handles are about twice a long as the 7″ blades. (Means less stretching for you and me.)

And they’re all one piece so they won’t break or come off.

Designed to Make the Job Less Tiring

If you’ve cut for an hour or more with almost any of the inexpensive hedge shears you know how tiring it can be to your shoulders and back.

These ARS made shears are light weight (1.7 pounds) and designed for perfect balance and optimum comfort. This allows you to cut for longer periods of time without tiring.

The tool is made to take the “force” of cutting which means less stress to your arms.

I love how one Amazon reviewer put it: “allows an hour long chopping session without gobbling a whole bottle of vitamins when you’re finished.”

Superior Performance

Not only is the quality and design of this tool superior, but its performance is superior.

Saves time and makes the job easier.

Advantages Over Electric Shears

  • You have more control than with power tools.

As a result shrubs like boxwood will look more manicured than “hacked at”, which is the look that often results when power tools are used.

  • No cord to accidentally cut/ or no battery to buy or charge
  • Powered by the gardener.
  • Easier to use

Friend and reader, Julie, in Utah wrote to me after buying and using one of the Silky pocket saws I highly recommended in a post.

She had been trimming (rose bushes) with an electric trimmer and was surprised to find this little Silky hand saw much easier to use. And that’s almost exactly what one of the reviewers said about these shears:
they were much easier to use than his electric hedge trimmer.

These excellent hand tools (the Silky Pocket Saw and ARS HS-KR1000 hedge shears) make jobs so easy that there’s really no reason to use a power tool.

Safety –
The blades and the points on these shears are extremely sharp. When I walk with them I have the blades closed and the pointy edge facing the ground. If I were to fall, I want those points to go into the ground, not into me.

Check to Get the Best Price

Check around to make sure you get the best price. Even on Amazon, several sellers offer these.

Check the Return Policy

With any product, no matter how good, you can end up with one that’s defective. Check the return policy before you place an order to be sure you can get a replacement or your money back.

Try Them Out Right Away

It’s a good idea to give the shears a test run as soon as you get them so you’ll know they’re ok in case there’s a time limit on returns.

My Observations That Might Help You

A couple of reviewers reported that the shears lost the fantastic cutting ability after a brief use. I couldn’t help but wonder if this was due to improper use of the shears.

These shears are made to cut soft plant stems like ornamental grasses, other soft stem perennials, and new growth on hedges (as opposed to woody stems deep into the bush).

Trying to cut woody stems that are work for loppers can dull blades.

It can take a bit of practice to learn what the tool will and won’t do.


#1 – When my ornamental grasses are dry these shears will made quick work of them. If I try to cut after a rain, it sometimes grabs the grass without cutting, especially at the thick base.

#2 – The tallest parts of the grasses can easily be cut using all 7 inches of the blade. When I get down to the base of the grass, it’s thick and I can’t just “charge” into it with all 7 inches of blade. Cutting the base in thin strips with the front two inches of the blades works great.

Shears opened so you can see.

#3 – There are times I have to change my angle of approach to have the shears cut properly. I wish I could explain that more clearly, but I don’t know the technical part of it. More than likely a professional landscaper or someone who works for a botanical garden could offer a much better explanation.

Final Thoughts

Compared to the inexpensive shears available at big box stores (and online), these ARS HS-KR1000 shears are on the high end in price.

But if you want a tool that should last a lifetime and makes garden trimming and clean up much easier with its almost effortless cut quality, you’ll want to consider these.


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  • Over the years I’ve purchased many new tools that looked like the answer to all gardening problems. Who knows where these wonder tools are now. I probably have fewer tools than ever before but each has been purchased with much checking, comparison and thought. Money well spent, so I’m 100% with you on researching before purchase and maybe a lot of thought about what this tool will do for you and do you really need it.

    Happy gardening

    Ray Kent

    PS I have onions sprouting. It’s late, but I will know more when the year is over than when I started.

  • I’m always amazed at how timely your posts are for me. It’s as if we had tea together the day before and I was telling you my latest garden thoughts and issues. I’ve been dreading cutting back some grasses in our front border because it was such an unpleasant undertaking last year. I knew I needed a different tool and yesterday I’d determined to find one. Now you’ve given me a tried and true recommendation. Thank you!


  • Thanks Theresa,

    My 2 cents worth.

    I have approximately 25 ornamental grasses to trim and about 5 different varieties. I have used many different techniques and tools over the years and I have found that a rechargeable electric hedge trimmer cuts through the grass like a knife through hot butter with a fraction of the work doing it by hand. I pull a tarp along to collect the grass and make a much shorter and rewarding job out of it.

    Another easy method I have used is to burn them just like they do for prairies. Of course most grasses are probably near something that could catch fire and unable to burn. If you have an area where you can safely burn keep a garden hose at the ready. Today I do not burn because the clippings are too valuable as mulch for my garden.


  • Ray, we sure see eye to eye on a lot of stuff. That for adding your thought.
    Love the onion update. Can hardly wait to see how they do. Keep me posted.

    Pam, I’m delighted that the post was timely and helpful to you and appreciate your taking the time to let me know. If you end up getting these shears let me know how you like them.

    Jim, appreciate your “2 cents worth”. Always nice to know what others do.

    Until the winter of 2013/14 I had almost 40 ornamental grasses. Now I have a few more than 2 dozen.

    You are probably in the majority by using an electric trimmer. But as I pointed out in the post, I don’t use electric tools. Reasons are numerous, but no time or space to expand on that here.

    As far as collecting the grass, I leave all my cuttings to feed my soil. I never remove them.

    I have never burned organic materials. And for those reading who are thinking of burning — keeping a garden hose close by —depending on lots of variables – could be about like spitting on the fire.
    And especially if there’s wind. Again – no time and space here for that — although I sure have many stories about folks burning, thinking they had it under control, and they didn’t.

    Thanks Ray, Pam and Jim for the comments. They always add lots to a post!

  • Hi, Theresa. I just discovered your blog when searching for a good tool for perennial cutback. Wondering if you have tried or considered the ARS K-800 19 1/2 inch hedge shears. They are smaller and lighter than the ARS professional hedge shears you recommended. My thinking is that perhaps they would be easier to handle, being smaller and lighter. Thoughts and comments appreciated. Thanks, Marti

  • I stumbled upon this blog when looking for a tool to cut my ornamental grasses. My wife always used the one-handed grass trimming shears, as the hedge trimming shears wouldn’t cut. I took the job on, yesterday, and quickly gave up on all of our various shears. In an inspiration, I knew I had a very sharp, old, carbon steel carving knife in our “ready to give to the kids” pile.
    I took the knife (slightly curved 9” blade) to the garden, and gripped a 3” in diameter handful of the grass, about an inch above what I wanted the length to be, and cut it in one movement with the knife. It worked like a charm. I trimmed all the grasses down to 4-6” in length in less than half the time it used to take my wife with the hand shears.
    Clearly, the tools my wife was using were inferior to the shears you recommend, but I would have to say that I don’t believe any shears would allow me to cut the grasses as quickly and accurately as the carving knife. (I took it out of the “ready to give to kids” box and put it in my workroom.
    The downside is that you need to bend down to the grass (not an issue for me) and also need to pay attention. I wore thick leather gloves and had a close call, when my attention wandered. I’m looking to see if there is a garden knife that would do the same task, perhaps sickle shaped, to grab the grasses better. Either way, I have a hard time believing that shears could be faster, more accurate or more efficient than my carbon steel old kitchen carving knife. It holds a remarkably sharp edge for a surprisingly long time, and I’ll sharpen it before using it again next spring.

  • Nicholas, I agree that no shears will allow you to cut the grasses as
    quickly and accurately as the “make shift” sickle you used (your carving knife).

    I have just discovered this myself in the last 6 months.
    For some reason it occurred to me to use my Japanese sickle that I cut my winter rye with when cutting my ornamental grasses. It was wonderful!! So much easier and faster. But as you said requires
    paying attention and caution.

    My sickle is a decade old but I think it is the Kusakichi sickle medium blade that is shown on this page of the HidaTool website

    It is on my list to write about, but I’ve not yet had time. Thanks
    for confirming my findings. Always nice to know someone else
    found out the same thing.


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