Ask a Master Gardener: Options for small trees and shrubs, recommendations on hand tools

  • Published: Thursday, April 23, 2020

Readers can pose questions or get more information by calling 417-874-2963 and talking to one of the trained volunteers staffing the Master Gardener Hotline at the University of Missouri Extension Center in Greene County located inside the Botanical Center, 2400 S. Scenic Ave., Springfield, MO 65807.

Q.   There are so many small trees and shrubs in bloom this spring.  What are some of the ones we’ve been seeing around town? - J.L., Springfield 
Answer by Master Gardener Mark Bernskoetter.  

Among shrubs, some have probably already faded from bloom, like the red of quince or the yellow of forsythia, probably the purple (or sometimes white) lilacs, various colors of rhododendrons, yellow aromatic currant, the white of the pearl bush, and bridal wreath spirea.  

Shrubs in bloom include so many shades of azaleas, white ninebark, purple to pink weigela, clusters of little white trumpets on abelia, the purples and whites of rose of Sharon, and tinier white flowers on deutzia.  

Trees that have or are ending their bloom time already include redbud, crab apple, the pink pompoms of the Kwanzan cherry, the purple and white magnolia, plum, pear, and the white or pink crosses of the dogwood.  

Trees that are blooming (or about to) include the white lace curtains of the fringe tree, serviceberry, the reddish horse chestnut, Carolina silver bells, creamy white clusters on the pagoda dogwood, red buckeye, some of the larger sweet scented magnolia, Kousa dogwood, and Hawthorn.  

And now is when most nurseries will have these trees for sale.  Get some and plant them to produce a great show in springs to come.  

Q. We were just married this winter and moved into a new house.  There is a garden spot and some flower/shrub beds.  What kinds of hand tools do we need to invest in for working with plants?  - P.T., Branson
Answer by Master Gardener Mark Bernskoetter.  

Cutting tools include a good pair of bypass hand pruners.  Bypass pruners usually make a cleaner cut on live wood.  If you have the funds to also get a pair of anvil style pruners, they are handy for dried, dead wood.  

Loppers are necessary for larger stems.  And the 9-10 inch gardening handsaw will help you cut most everything else you encounter, other than tree limbs.  

The soil knife is a good investment that bridges the gap between cutting and digging tools.  It can be used for small digs like to plant bulbs or to uproot smaller individual plants.  It can also cut away roots both to free up the plant while it’s still in the ground and when you’ve dug it out and need to separate the mass of roots into several smaller clumps of plants.  

Digging tools include a good, strong shovel (one with a jagged cutting edge on one side is very handy but a little more pricey).  Then a hand trowel is always handy for planting seedlings or bulbs.  In between the full size shovel and the hand trowel is the mini-shovel - a real life shovel, but only about knee to thigh high so it can fit into those close quarters between plants or to separate starts from a large grouping.  

Of course, no garden tool collection is complete without a hoe to help you weed from a standing position, but also to dig furrows to sow sees or to make small holes for planting seedlings.  
The greatest moving tools in the garden are the bucket, for smaller jobs and the wheelbarrow for larger ones. 

Writer: Kelly McGowan

Media Contact

Kelly McGowan
417/881-8909

Use Tab key to loop through the section below. Press Enter or Space to enter content for each tab button. Press Esc key to exit and to go to the next section at any time.

Extension resources