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I was just wondering if anyone had tips for cutting back the very old, very thick and dense tangle of clematis stems on a pergola. I started a job using a hedgecutter and it was just too tangled and tightly packed despite the individual stems being thin, and the hedgecutter was getting stuck in it all. I ended up pruning the denser bits with secateurs because I couldn't see another way to get through the tangle and after 4 sacks of rubbish removed had to move on to another job with a promise to return. There's still loads of it left and now I'm dreading going back there as I don't feel like I have the right tool for the job.

I was wondering whether a powered saw might be the way to go - ie not a chain saw which frankly may be overkill and could end up cutting into the wooden pergola pretty easily. This is also close work due to the position of this pergola on an elevated section of garden next to some steps and a channel path which is a lot lower than the garden level as the house has a basement. So I can only reach it all by being pretty close to it.

I wondered if a powered wood saw or pruning saw might be the right thing but don't want to go to that expense if it's not going to be useful there and in other places as well. I don't just want to use a hand saw as it'll take too long and become ridiculously expensive for the client, as well as very annoying and tiring for me.

The clematis is an autumn/winter flowering type by the way, probably cirrhosa, with stems that are nowhere near as beefy as an armandii or a montana.

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  • nightmare, what hedge cutter are you using, a more powerful one would do it, i use an 80 volt one for heavy duty work, or a good petrol one should do it

  • PRO

    Stihl HS 81R with sharp blades would make mincemeat out of it. If it will chop through blackthorn and beech as big as the blade gap a bit of clematis won't be a issue. In all seriousness though, I dismantled a 'Montana' that had covered a shed totally with my trusty Stihl, just carved it off in slices and cubes...

  • Could always suggest taking it down to the ground and starting  from scratch keeping it well trained/pruned in the future. 

    • PRO


      • i guess the climber is totally wrapped around the structure so would need chopping up anyhow, it's one of those scenarios where you have to get a bit aggressive with it in a controlled manner, get the nose of the hedge trimmer in, plenty of rev's and slice it into bite sized chunks, the tangled way these things grow it is well nigh impossible to preserve individual stems but they tend to regenerate vigorously if well established

        • PRO

          Yes I don't have to be careful, that's one good thing, other than to make sure I don't chop into the pergola, as she doesn't want to keep it (though stopping it resprouting may be a separate issue once it's all down!). Lord alone knows how many years it's taken to get as thick as it is. It has to be at least 20 years of growth I'd have thought.

  • I am guessing that you might be working on your own (like I do).  If you already have a multitool with a chainsaw type pruning attachment, that would be easier to control than a chainsaw, as you would have both feet firmly on the ground to get to clemantis where it is higher up the pergoda. You are also a safer distance from that blade. With the clemantis so entangled it will probably cut into convenient cuboid shapes for disposal.  (If you haven't got a multitool you might consider it in the future, as it is a back up for other tools when they need fixing or replacement.)  I did this on ivy that had fallen off a wall,over the steps down to a basement path, that sounds similar to that you describe.

    A cheap tool would be a green wood handsaw - looks like a standard joiners long handsaw, but is designed to cut green wood.  It is much easier to use than a pruning saw, and quicker in use too.

    If you can get an electric supply to the pagoda, then you may be able to hire an electric reciprocating saw from a convenient tool hire store (if you have one).  A long blade in one of these can be pushed into the growth and could be guided along the edges of the pagoda wood.  You need two hands on one of these saws to keep it under control.

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