Handheld machines for ornamental hedges

Battery popularity continues to grow but is there still a place for petrol? Sally Drury asks what's new in both markets.

Dual-action: HT6500E with blade guard and 33mm tooth spacing for thick branches - image: Ego Power+
Dual-action: HT6500E with blade guard and 33mm tooth spacing for thick branches - image: Ego Power+

Hedges have so many functions in the landscape. They may mark boundaries, provide security, act as backcloths to other features, screen eyesores, reduce noise or simply provide a point of interest in their own right. But they all need maintaining so clipping to size and shape is the main task.

Making the biggest waves in the market since the introduction of two-stroke engines, lithium ion battery units are being sought by professional users wanting to take advantage of their benefits. With today's Li-ion technology, switching to battery does not necessarily mean a loss of performance, nor a shorter working day.

"The hedge trimmer market has undoubtedly seen an increased emphasis on battery in recent years, more so than other product categories," confirms Husqvarna UK category manager Andrew Lees. "Due to the nature of hedge trimming and the constant manoeuvring that goes with it, users are recognising the many benefits that battery brings, especially when you consider that there are no emissions, the products are lower in weight, produce less vibration and emit much lower noise levels.

"The lower noise levels are especially important as this allows battery machines to be used in noise-sensitive areas where petrol machines may not be permitted during normal working hours. Our battery powered machines offer petrol-equivalent performance despite being lower in weight. All these benefits combined make the products the ideal solution for professional applications."

Introduced this year and designed for occasional use, Husqvarna's ii5iHD45-KIT comes with battery and charger for £195 including VAT. It has a 45cm blade and a speed of 3,000 cuts per minute.

Of more interest to those looking for a commercial warranty and full-time-use machine, the 536LiHD70X has a 70cm blade and runs at 4,000 cuts/min. It features a high-torque motor, keypad with "savE" and normal running modes plus pivoting rear handle for vertical and horizontal cutting. Its retail price is £350 excluding battery and charger.

Stihl has added a number of new cordless models to its portfolio this summer, including two very lightweight entry-level hedge trimmers - the HSA 45 and HSA 56 - with body-only weights of 2.3kg and 2.9kg respectively. Both are single-sided models but the HSA 45 has a 50cm bar with 24mm tooth spacing for trimming annual growth whereas the HSA 56 has a 45cm bar with 30mm spacing and is intended for cutting heavier growth on hedges and shrubs. Prices are £99 and £149 including VAT but without batteries or chargers.

More heavy-duty are Stihl's professional HSA 94 R and HSA 94T. Both have been introduced for this season and have adjustable rear-handles but their main features are the different tooth spacing and stroke rates, variable in three settings. This gives the 94 R, with wide 38mm spacing, speeds of 2,800, 3,000 and 3,200 strokes/min for cutting more mature growth.

The 94 T, with a close spacing of 30mm, has faster speeds of 4,400, 4,700 or 5,000 strokes/min to give a precise, accurate cut and neat finish. Both versions offer the choice of 60cm or 75in cutter bars and prices start from £445 including VAT.

Pole trimmer: EN4950H for high hedges - image: Makita

New to the battery market

This year sees Echo Power Tools join the Li-ion market with a range of products that includes the DHC-200 50V hedge trimmer. It comes with a 2Ah battery as standard to give a 60-minute runtime. Recharge times are 24 minutes to 80% and 42 minutes to full 100%.

The DHC-200 boasts a brushless, maintenance-free motor and energy efficient motor controls to manage speed, power delivery and battery temperature for improved cutting performance and battery life. It also features a professional-grade gear case to minimise noise and vibration, variable speed control and 62.4cm cutter bar with 30mm pitch. Backing the unit, which costs £555 including VAT, is a two-year professional warranty.

This year also sees Honda active in the battery world with a range of tools running on 56V lithium-ion batteries. The hedge trimmer features 61cm dual-action, laser-cut, diamond-ground steel blades running at 2,600strokes/min. Two sizes of battery - 2Ah and 4Ah - and two different-speed chargers are available, offering up to 130 minutes running time and a full recharge in just 25 minutes. Weight is 2.8kg without battery. The body-only price is £165 including VAT.

Also using a 56V battery, the latest hedge trimmer from EGO Power+ is the HT6500E 65cm dual-action unit with 33mm tooth spacing for thick branches and blade guard for safety. Twin speed control lets the operator match speed to conditions and a rotating rear handle gives comfort whether trimming sides or topping off. The body only price is £219 including VAT.

The other new kid on the block, Cobra, has added three electric hedge trimmers, one of which is a long-reach, to its offering. Of more interest to professional gardeners, the 24V H50 hedge trimmer has a 50cm double-sided blade with narrow 15mm spacing and a no-load runtime of just 50 minutes. But the H5540VZ with longer 55cm cutting length and 28mm tooth spacing runs for up to 85 minutes. The latter weighs 4.2kg including battery and has an online price of £91.99.

For small areas, Wolf Garten has also extended its hedge trimming line-up with three electric models plus 72V and 18V cordless, double-sided trimmers.

If trimming has not been as regular as you would have liked, with some branches requiring individual treatment, Pellenc offers the Prunion pruning tool in addition to its Helion hedge trimmers. If you also tend shrub borders and small orchards, this could be the solution to more than one problem.

But while more people than ever are learning about the benefits of battery tools in 2017, there is still a place for robust, professional petrol machines that offer power and a long product life. Husqvarna's professional range features the powerful X-Torq engine for demanding commercial operations. Popular in the line-up is the 60cm 226HD60S. Retailing at £460 including VAT, this well-balanced, double-sided petrol hedge trimmer has a heavy-duty, long-life gearbox as well as the X-Torq engine and an adjustable rear handle to facilitate cutting the sides and tops of hedges. There is a fuel pump for easy starting and performance is boosted by the 4,100 cuts/min blade speed.

The latest petrol model from Echo is the Easy Start HCR-185ES hedge trimmer with a 21.2cc two-stroke Stage 2-compliant low-emission engine giving 0.57kW output. It has a 74.4cm double-sided laser-cut and precision-ground blade with half-length guard protection.

The handle has five positions for manoeuvrability and comfort while a throttle lock-out helps to prevent accidental engagement. The exhaust is sited away from the user but also where it prevents hedge scorching and discolouration. It has tool-less access to a three-stage heavy-duty air filter. The fuel tank holds 0.37 litres and dry weight is 5.3kg. It costs £549 including VAT and the commercial warranty runs for two years.

Long reach: HCA-265ES from Echo has an overall length of 242cm in working position - image: Echo Tools

Keep both feet on the ground

For safety's sake, it is best to keep both feet on the ground if at all possible, and this is where the long-reach or pole hedge trimmer is the business - although these machines are also handy for trimming close to the ground. Stihl has introduced three extended machines. The HL 92 C-E and HL 92 KC-E both have 21.4cc 2-MIX engines with EcoSpeed load control to reduce noise levels. Both also feature ErgoStart for effortless starting and 50cm cutter bars that adjust through 145 degs for working at different angles. The 92 KC-E has an overall length of 189cm and costs £720 including VAT. The 92 C-E is longer at 232cm, has a "D"-handle and costs £750.

The third new unit from Stihl is the HL 94 C-E. This "D"-handled machine has a bigger 24.1cc engine, is slightly longer again at 242cm but in all other respects shares the same features as the HL 92 models.

Long-reach and articulating, the HCA-265ES was introduced by Echo earlier this year. It carries 60cm laser cut, precision-ground double-reciprocating blades that pivot through 135 degs and fold through 180 degs for safe transport. Overall length in the working position is 242cm. A 0.5-litre fuel tank feeds the 25.4cc two-stroke Stage 2-compliant, low-emission, Easy Start engine. Power output is 0.89kW and dry weight is recorded at 6.5kg. Like most other Echo tools, there is tool-free access to the three-stage air filter. Priced at £689 including VAT, it is backed by a two-year professional-use warranty.

Recognised for its wide range of electric, battery and petrol hedge trimmers, Makita also offers pole versions for high hedges. Powered by the company's own MM4 four-stroke engine, the newest model EN4950H boasts a new gear drive transmission that converts the rotary shaft drive into cutting strokes for the 49cm-long blades, giving up to 2,100 strokes/min and cutting branches up to 21.5mm thick. The head pivots through 135 degs to allow high and low work as well as topping off in comfort and folds for transport. While it may be four-stroke, the unit weighs under 7kg.

Want long reach and battery power? You can have it. Most hedge trimmer manufacturers that offer battery kit are now able to supply long-reach trimmers. This summer Husqvarna extends its product line-up with the 536LiHE3. The 36V unit comes with a 55cm blade and shares many of the features with standard Husky battery trimmers, including high-torque brushless motor, adjustable cutter bar, "savE" mode and 4,000 cuts/min speed but has a reach of 3.5m. Expect to pay around £325 including VAT but excluding battery and charger.

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