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Why Happy Trees are the perfect trees!

What to look for when selecting a healthy tree

By Chris Leinster - March 3, 2024

In the olden days, if you desired to plant a tree you would load up the family in the ‘ole station wagon and motor over to your local garden center. There you would encounter thousands of trees over dozens of acres where you could wander through the mud for hours staring up through row after row of trees to find your perfect purchase. But do you really know what to look for when selecting a tree? Here’s how Happy Trees ensures you’ll be Happy when you allow us to select your tree for you.

Happy Trees makes it far more convenient for you to shop for trees by category and to pick the right type of tree for your needs. We provide pictures of trees for all four seasons so you can see how they look when barren over Winter, when donned in Spring flowers, leafed out during summer months, and when shrouded in Fall color! We also do the shopping for you, so there’s no need to waste a weekend driving up to Longmont or down to Franktown to fight crowds and pick through the trees remaining in stock.

For shade and ornamental trees, the first thing most folks consider most important is a straight trunk. In my retail days I would wonder as couples fought over which tree had the straightest, most perfectly aligned trunk. In my professional view a straight trunk is desirable, yet hardly the most important predictor for a glorious tree at maturity. It is perfectly normal for trees to have slight bends or bows in their trunks, and rarely do we find perfectly straight trunks on many varieties. Good luck finding a Hackberry that likes to grow straight, yet as they age the bends and bows add character and become desirable characteristics for these and many other varieties. For most trees slight bends and bows don’t actually straighten out but as the trees add layers of tissue through the years the bends become hardly noticeable. Still, I try to select the straightest trunks for the best possible initial impression.

Probably a balanced basket is a more important consideration. This means that branching is evenly dispersed about the tree. This ensures that the tree looks marvelous no matter from which angle you view it. It’s not the end of the world if a tree has a flat side or a gap in branching. It will fill in over time. Sometimes its desirable to have a flat side if planting near a house or where you need clearance over a driveway. For most trees a central leader is also preferred. This is the central vertical post from which the lateral branches will emerge.

Closer scrutiny should be paid to ensuring that the tree is free from physical damage or any type of disease. This is often overlooked by the novice shopper, but I obsess over this as I abhor warranty. Nurseries commonly wrap the trunks of trees during transportation and storage to protect the bark from scrapes and scratches. Its important to lift or remove the wrap to inspect for gashes, gouges, or other damage. I also check the graft if its visible to make sure it’s healed properly. I make sure the tree is solid in the root ball and not wiggling around. Minor snaps of twigs and branches are sometimes unavoidable, but I watch closely for major splits or broken scaffold branches.  

Diseases can be difficult to spot, but for most varieties I know what to look for and am always vigilant for telltale signs. Oozing sap or any discharge would indicate a bacterial infection. Soft spots in the bark reveal canker. Discoloration of the bark or other anomalies are to be avoided. Pinholes indicate the tree may have been infected with borers. Its rare that I encounter any of these problems from my reputable vendors, but I’m aware and always verify that I’m bringing out a healthy tree.