April cold snap devestated newly awakening trees.

Are my trees going to make it?

By Chris Leinster - May 18, 2020

You may have noticed that trees and shrubs seem slow to wake up this year. You are not mistaken. Temperatures have been cool, and particularly night time temperatures have been chilly. More drastically, a snow storm clobbered the region just as tender leaves and flowers were budding out. Temperatures dropped from the 50s to the teens overnight. This obliterated tender new growth just as plants were awakening from their winter slumber.

You may be wondering if your trees and shrubs are going to make it. Probably. Most trees and shrubs that are adaptable for our climate have defense mechanisms to deal with precisely this situation. Amazingly, trees and shrubs have ‘latent’ buds, or leaf and flower buds that remain dormant or suppressed. When the regular growth got frosted, a hormonal response triggered the latent buds to kick into action! You may notice new leaves and flowers, although perhaps sparse, starting to appear on your stunted trees.

Now that things are heating up you should see trees recovering normally. We likely won’t get the flower show we anticipate and adore, but your trees shall survive to put on their magnificent displays in successive years.

What can you do to help your trees recover? You should always be paying attention to your trees’ water and nutrient needs in order to cultivate happy, healthy trees. Trees in excellent health and vigor can usually withstand whatever ailments and environmental stressors that nature can throw their way. Trees that are struggling due to lack of sufficient water or nutritional support can be badly beaten and may expire without the necessary resources to recover.

Trees need moisture in the soil in order to push out new roots and to extract water and nutrients from the soil. Roots begin to grow long before you see any leaves or flowers growing on the branches, and often before you turn on your irrigation systems each spring. You may need to drag out the hoses and hand water. Even if sprinklers are turned on it’s imperative to make sure that moisture is penetrating deeply into the root zone.

Having said that, be sure not to over-water! Roots also exchange gasses with the soil and this can’t be achieved if the ground is consistently saturated. The key is to give them a good soaking when you water, but then give them some time to drain and somewhat dry out. Temperatures and precipitation fluctuate wildly in the spring so use your water gauges and try to get some understanding of what’s happening deep into the root zone.

Just like us hairless monkeys, trees need a healthy diet and nutrients to produce the cells that make leaves, flowers, and other structural tissues. Trees have a remarkable ability to extract nutrients from the soil and from the air, but supplemental fertilizers may be required to provide your plants with everything they need to thrive. Trees need copious amounts of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, plus micro-nutrients like iron, magnesium, zinc, sulfur, and calcium. Stay out of the big box stores and consult your local garden center professionals for fertilizer recommendations.

Try not to get discouraged if plants don’t pull through a tough winter. I remind clients all the time that if you look around our open spaces the only plants that like to grow here are a mix of grasses, sage bushes, yucca, and perhaps some prickly pear cactus. With a little care and cultivation, your favorite trees and plants from around the world can grow here for future generations to enjoy!

Just because it can live here, doesn't mean you should plant them.

Can Galaxy Magnolia Grow Here?

By Chris Leinster - April 16, 2020

Galaxy Magnolia are among the most stunning and graceful trees to be found anywhere on the planet. They have massive rosy lavender flowers that smell like candy! The smooth grey bark supports an elegantly branched tree. The large, glossy-green leaves have a tropical appearance. They are rated to zone 5 which means that technically, they can grow here. So, should you plant one?

Probably not. Even though Galaxy Magnolia flower weeks later than most of the varieties in its species, it still flowers very early in the season. The flowers are very sensitive to frost and turn to mush when exposed to cold. The photo accompanying this blog was taken in late March. As I write this on April 16th, there’s six inches of snow outside my window! Because our night time temperatures consistently dip below freezing well into May, it is unlikely you will ever experience a prolific bloom for more than a couple of days.

Maybe if you live in downtown Denver, protected from winter winds by tall buildings and mature trees, nestled in the “heat island” effect provided by asphalt streets and tar rooftops, maybe you might get one of these magnificent trees to live past the first couple of seasons. But even if you do, the blossoms will likely be obliterated the day they open, and a year’s worth of anticipation will evaporate just like the frost on your windshield on a chilly morning.


Just because a tree can grow here, doesn’t mean it should. The opening statement on my Tree Care Guide states “If you look around the next time you drive out to the airport you’ll get a good understanding of what kinds of trees like to grow along Colorado’s Front Range. That is to say, virtually none”.

Colorado is brutal on trees and shrubs. Our high altitude and dry air is tough on people and plants. Dramatic temperature swings are problematic also, and we’ve just experienced record highs followed by record lows. If trees are lucky enough to survive through establishment, they get pummeled by high winds and hammering hail. With all these extremes going against them, it’s a wonder any trees can survive here at all!

Redbud trees face a similar dilemma. In my native Virginia they proliferate under the forest canopy and decorate the lowlands with delightful lavender flowers each spring. They can live here, but they have a high failure rate. Arborvitae struggle here also. The soft cypress-like needles are sensitive and we lose more than we get to see survive. You should probably steer clear of all broad-leafed evergreens, with the exception of plants in the Euonymus family. I just shake my head in dismay when I walk the nursery isles at the big box stores where national buyers order Pieris and Leucothoe that don’t have a prayer of surviving in our climate.

My mission at Happy Trees is to help you select the perfect tree for your needs, whether you want shade, privacy, or just something beautiful to ornament your yard. Most nurseries have knowledgeable staff who can help with your tree selections, but there are very few nurseries left in the greater Denver area, and fewer still that offer planting services. Most landscape contractors aren’t interested in planting just one or a few trees, and those that do may not have a background in horticulture or be qualified to recommend the right tree for your situation. Happy Trees has the education and experience to make sure you purchase the perfect tree with confidence!

Most Crabapple varieties are rugged and hardy, and their prolific blooms can withstand cold snaps. Many varieties have insignificant fruits, and they come in a variety of shapes, such as globular, upright, and even weeping!

For bomb-proof vitality, Hawthorn trees are hard to beat! They are covered with white flowers in spring, followed by brightly colored berries and traffic-stopping red-orange-yellow fall color. There are many thorn-less varieties but the thorn covered shouldn’t be overlooked, as the attributes outweigh the stickers in my opinion. In my 20+ year career I can’t recall ever having to warranty a Hawthorn tree.

Maple, Oak, Linden, and Honeylocust all have a place in our gardens along the Front Range, as well as evergreens such as Pine, Spruce, Fir, and Juniper. Flowering Trees like Japanese Lilac, Golden Raintree, Pear, and Plum can all thrive in our gardens, as can Serviceberry, Kentucky Coffeetree, and Catalpa. With the careful selection and a little tender loving care, many of your favorite trees from around the world can thrive here for many generations to come!


How to easily control Mites on your Trees and Landscape Plants

By Chris Leinster - April 10, 2020

Mites are tiny little spiders that crawl around on your plants and suck the juices out of the leaves and needles. A Mite is harmless, but females can lay hundreds or even thousands of eggs creating colonies that can decimate tender plants. Plants are particularly susceptible when they are waking up from winter slumber and starting to push out new leaves and needles. Mites hatch very early in the Spring before you may even be considering getting out to do yard work, so be aware of their existence and timing and get out to control the infestations on your landscape plants.

Mites are insidious because they are so teenie they are difficult to spot, so you may not notice an infestation until you see severe damage to your plants. This usually appears as “stippling” or tiny yellow or black dots on the leaves, or browned out or yellow needles on evergreens. You may notice very fine webbing if you’re paying attention. Broad leafed evergreens such as Boxwood or Euonymus are particularly susceptible, but different species can infect practically any plant, even Spruce and Pine Trees.

If you suspect Mite damage, get a clipboard or a sheet of paper and gently shake a branch over it, or lightly slap the branch on your clipboard or a piece of cardboard. The Mites will fall off the plant and begin moving about confused and disoriented. They are very small, but you can usually just make out the tiny dots moving about your paper. They can be almost any color, usually brown, black, red, yellow, or orange, but they can also be white, so use different colored paper if you don’t see them at first.

Fortunately, their miniscule size and fragile exoskeleton make them easy to destroy. There are dozens of pesticides available that can do the job, but pesticides unfortunately target beneficial insects like Bees and Ladybugs. Horticultural oils work, and so do insecticidal soaps. These are mild and less destructive, but can be expensive. Perhaps the easiest way to rid yourself of these pests is to dig under the kitchen cabinet and get yourself some mild dish soap.


Dish soap works wonders because it is cheap and readily available. It won’t harm most plants (Google search or test a small part of your plant if you’re concerned), and shouldn’t harm most beneficial insects. Simply mix up a solution in your hose-end sprayer and wash your plants and trees down. The soap coats the Mites and they either suffocate, slip and fall to the ground, or as the soap dries it cracks open the macilent shell just like it dries out your skin when you wash your hands. If this sounds cruel, remember they are little Arachnids, and Spiders are unholy demons from Hell that must be destroyed at all cost. Besides nature will make more, I promise.

Soap has other benefits as well. As it drips to the ground or washes down during the next rainstorm, it percolates into the soil and acts as a surfactant to break up tightly bonded clay particles. This assists water and nutrients to penetrate deeper into the soil. It will eventually get eaten by bacteria the same way it gets devoured in sewage treatment plants before water is released back into rivers, so it’s not a pollutant and it won’t build up in the soil. Plus it gives your plants that sexy healthy sheen that we so desire!

Mites aren’t generally considered problematic, but almost none of the trees and shrubs we plant in our landscapes along the Front Range are native to Colorado, so often our plants are under stress whether we notice it or not. Mites can easily invade and destroy plants weakened by stress, so make sure you’re paying attention to your trees’ water and nutrient needs to keep them healthy and resistant to insect infestations and other diseases.

We here at Happy Trees are always happy to analyze insect and disease problems, but we aren’t licensed pesticide applicators and we don’t perform pesticide services, even soap. Contact a licensed and certified Arborist for treatment if this is more than you are willing to perform. But for your tree planting needs always give Happy Trees a call!

Large shrubs/ small trees for your landscape.

4-6' B&B shrubs available now!

By Chris Leinster - March 31, 2020

Happy Trees is your premier source to have large caliper balled and burlapped trees delivered and professionally planted for you. But if its mature shrubs you want, Happy Trees can provide those too! There are many shrubs that straddle the line between large shrubs and small trees, generally considered around 15’. Rose of Sharon, Purple Smoketree, Viburnum, Serviceberry, Lilac, and many others are generally considered shrubs or bushes but can be trained into multi-stem trees.

Most of the aforementioned shrubs are commonly available only in 5 gallon containers that will take several years to reach maturity. Most homeowners can transport these and perform their own planting. If you need screening immediately or if you just want instant gratification, Happy Trees has a great selection of 4-6’ balled and burlapped Viburnum and Rose of Sharon, and expects to see Purple Smoketree and Lilac in the coming weeks.


Viburnum have a profusion of white flowers in late spring followed by glossy green leaves and colorful berries that add late season interest. Fall colors range from yellow-orange-burgundy, and they perform quite well for our climate. Most reach 15’, but smaller varieties are available.

Rose of Sharon are slender shrubs with an upright branching habit that can reach heights over 10’ tall. They’re not a rose, but rather belong to the Hibiscus family. They have very large tropical looking flowers that bloom later in the season to give you a progression of bloom. They open up in late June or July and will continue to pump out flowers until frost.

Lilac are among the most familiar shrubs for North American landscapes, and with good reason. They are one of the earliest shrubs to come into bloom and their delightfully fragrant blossoms signal winter’s end. Colors range from white, pink, lavender, and purple. We wish the flowers lasted longer, but they are hardy and adaptable for our Colorado climate.

Purple Smoketree is an unusual shrub or small tree to give your yard a focal point or a conversation piece. Graceful branches support burgundy leaves. The flowers are lacy and airy, giving the appearance of smoke wafting off the plant in mid-summer.

All of these are ideal for smaller properties or tight spaces. If you need a tree or shrub for privacy, shade, or just something unusual and beautiful to brighten your day, Happy Trees can help you find the perfect tree for your needs.

CAVID-19 update- Happy Trees is committed to supporting our employees and serving our customers during this health and economic crisis. Agriculture and construction are exempt from the stay at home orders, and we perform agricultural construction. We are following the guidelines of the CDC and the WHO, as well as local and state health agencies. We are sanitizing vehicle cabins and tools, and our workers are able to distance themselves from our clients and each other while performing their work. If you’re stuck at home and you’ve been thinking about adding a tree, no need to wait, give us a call today!

Heptacodium, Seven-Son Flower

Add a unique specimen to brighten your landscape!

By Chris Leinster - March 25, 2020

Plant geeks of the world unite! You pride yourself on the remarkable array of distinguished and unusual plants you’ve cultivated in your gardens. You gave up after your third attempt at Japanese Maple, but you’ve trained your Purple Smoketree shrub into a graceful and elegant multi-stem tree. You’ve failed with every type of Rhododendron you’ve tried, but your Bamboo is finally taking off after it’s third year in the ground. Your Tri-color Beech stops traffic when the pink leaves first emerge, but you’re still not satisfied and are seeking that next conversation piece to add that “wow” factor to your landscape. Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you Seven-Son Flower!

Seven-Son Flower is a recent introduction from China that is swiftly gaining popularity and familiarity in commercial production. Rated to Zone 5, it is marginal along Colorado’s Front Range, but seems to be adaptable to our soils and climate. I planted one at the Westminster Botanic Gardens/ world headquarters of Happy Trees, and it has survived the winter and is budding out with no noticeable die-back as I write this on March 25th.


Seven-Son Flower is a large shrub or small tree, often multiple-stemmed, but can be trained into a single-trunk form. Its slender upright habit will reach a height of 15-20’ with a 10’ spread. Its creamy white flowers appear late in the summer, long after most of your flowering trees and shrubs have shed their petals, so it provides that progression of bloom to give interest late into fall. After the flowers, ruby-red calyces form to add another burst of interest before winter reclaims the land. Another notable attribute is the exfoliating bark that peels off to reveal a calico patchwork of cinnamon, tan, and brown tones.

Seven-Son Flower reminds me of the Crepe Myrtle trees that decorated the Virginia coastline of my misspent youth. A comprehensive description and pictures can be found at the Missouri Botanic Gardens. These are a bit of a boutique item, so they’re not featured on the Happy Trees’ website. For a limited time, 1-3/4” caliper trees can be delivered and installed for $715, and 7’ clump form trees are $825. As always, planting includes our planting package consisting of compost soil amendment, microbial fertilizer, lodgepole tree supports, and top-dress mulch. Hurry, the supply is limited and once sold we won’t see them until next spring.

You don’t need to be a botanist or even an avid gardener to plant and appreciate Seven-Son Flower in your yard. They are actually fairly hardy and relatively care-free with minimal maintenance needs. You may want to trim some stray branches to give it a desired shape, but they will mature quite nicely all on their own. Seven-Son Flower is the perfect addition to any landscape, whether you need a small tree to shade a patio, another specimen for the “tropical” themed garden, a point of interest for a meditation garden or the Japanese garden, or a unique focal point for your entryway.

CORONA VIRUS UPDATE- So called "shelter-in-place" laws are being enacted across the state, as if COVID-19 was an active shooter from which you need to katy-bar the door. The Colorado Nursery and Greenhouse association has lobbied hard to ensure that the green industry is included in the list of "essential" operations, along with construction, including landscape construction.

Following guidelines from the CDC and WHO, landscape construction activities are considered low-risk. Workers can maintain a safe distance from customers and from one another, and precautions are in place to ensure the safety of our customers and employees. Tools and vehicle cabins are being sanitized and workers are using hand sanitizer and gloves.

Happy Trees intends to remain open for business during this crisis. We pay among the highest wages in the industry for our labor, but still many of our employees live hand-to-mouth. If you've been contemplating planting a tree, please help keep the economy humming and give us a call!