How to Tackle Thorns in Your Garden

Running into thorns in your garden? The experts at HGTV.com share tips on how to prune thorny plants and practice safe gardening.

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Red Berries of Buckthorn Canada

"I've got a little gardening secret to share with you," says master gardener Paul James. "I don't like growing a lot of plants with thorns. I'll be the first to admit that it's silly, especially since there are so many beautiful thorny plants. It's just that I've never liked reaching into a plant to cut or prune it only to be poked by some painful protuberance."

Despite that, Paul has a few roses and barberries - plus, some junipers, cedars and spruces, which may be thornless but their stiff needles certainly feel like thorns. "I don't mean to give plants with thorns a bad rap," he says. "After all, some of the most beautiful plants in the world have them. It's just that you won't find too many of them growing at my place."

So what can you do to make growing plants with thorns a painless process? Here are a few items that can help:

  • Leather gloves, which feature a longer-than-usual gauntlet, make reaching into roses and other prickly plants a lot less painful.  
  • Better yet, a long-reach pruner enables you to prune plants with prickly appendages a good deal easier. This clever tool also features a swivel-cutting head, which not only cuts but also grabs and holds on to stems.
  • And finally a thorn stripper comes in handy after you've cut a dozen roses for a loved one. "You know, heck hath no fury like a woman scorned by thorns, which is why it's best to strip the thorns before handing out the roses," Paul says. "And this clever little gizmo does the job quicker than you can say 'I'm sorry, I'll get a bandage.' "

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