Tagawa Gardens Blog

5 go-to trees that are perfect for Colorado Front Range gardens

Who doesn’t love a beautiful tree?  Now is the perfect time to show that love and plant!

Check out five great trees that are perfect for Colorado Front Range gardens.

Healthy trees are seen as the “bones” of a landscape…. anchoring it… giving it a sense of place and belonging.  And what better way to celebrate Arbor Day and Earth Day (both fall in April) than with a tree that will thrive and grow as a treasured addition to your home?

With the help of our nursery professionals at Tagawa Gardens, I’ve come up with five “go to” trees that are right at home here along the Front Range.  I asked our nursery staff to nominate some of their personal favorites.  They stepped up to the plate, enthusiastically giving all five trees of these trees high marks.

Read on!

Japanese Tree Lilac at Tagawa Gardens, DenverJapanese Tree Lilac

The smallest tree on the list is a Japanese Tree Lilac.  These are true lilacs, but their globe shape is much taller than the flowering shrubs we all know and love.  They grow to be 15 to 20 feet tall and wide, and are remarkably trouble-free.

Tree lilacs put on a beautiful display of creamy white flowers in late June.  Their fragrance is intoxicating!  Plant them near a deck or patio and breathe it in!

Once the flowers fade, the dense foliage continues to add a welcoming pool of shade through the summer.  Japanese Tree Lilacs are drought-tolerant once they’re “established.”  In other words, give them two or three seasons of normal watering, and then enjoy these trouble-free plants as their water-wise habits kick in!

Russian Hawthorn at Tagawa Gardens, DenverRussian Hawthorn

Russian Hawthorns are one of the most drought-tolerant trees on our list.  Again, establishing these trees with two seasons of normal watering will get their root systems healthy and strong enough to withstand dry conditions.

Susan, one of Tagawa’s Nursery Professionals, highly recommends Russian Hawthorn.  It was the first tree she nominated for our list!

Russian Hawthorns mature at 15 to 20 feet tall and wide with an upright oval form and slightly spreading lower branches.

These hawthorns have beautiful, finely-cut, dark green leaves, turning yellow in the fall.  The white flowers emerge in clusters in late spring.  They mature into richly-colored dark red berries late in the season.

The tree’s bark is a golden yellow that exfoliates or peels naturally.  The bark, combined with the berries, create excellent “winter interest.”   The tree is a great addition to any landscape, even after the leaves have fallen for the season.

Russian Hawthorns are a medium-fast grower.  They do have some thorns, as their name implies.

American Hornbeam at Tagawa Gardens, DenverAmerican Hornbeam

Tagawa Gardens Nursery Supervisor, Nancy, is a big fan of American Hornbeams, in part because of the striking patterns on their bark.  The beautifully textured bark is sinewy, like well-developed muscles on an athlete.  No surprise that the tree is also known as a “Musclewood!”

Another remarkable feature of this Hornbeam is the pagoda-shaped fruit it produces in the fall.  Fall leaf color is a mottled yellow and red. The fruit and the bark give this tree an especially elegant appearance in a winter landscape.

American Hornbeams grow 25 to 30 feet tall and wide.  They have a moderate growth rate.  This Hornbeam should be watered normally for the first three years.  They are somewhat drought tolerant once established.

Kentucky Coffee Tree at Tagawa Gardens, DenverKentucky Coffee Tree

Native Americans and early settlers in the west used the ripened seed pods of this beautiful tree as a substitute for coffee.  The Nursery Staff at Tagawa Gardens loves it for its beauty and resilience.

Kentucky Coffee Trees have a slow-to-moderate growth rate.  They can reach up to 50 feet tall and 40 feet wide.   Their size isn’t their only striking feature.  The leaves of Kentucky Coffee trees are show stoppers!  Each of the two-foot-long leaf segments consists of several lance-shaped leaflets off to each side. The effect is stunning and looks quite tropical!  As an added bonus, the leaves turn bright yellow in the fall.

The fragrant early summer white flowers may be hidden by the dense foliage, but they  mature into beautiful seed pods as summer fades.  You guessed it:  the large pods make for great winter interest!

Kentucky Coffee trees are tough!  They’re both heat and drought tolerant, assuming they’ve been well-established with two years of good watering.  They’re also tolerant of a wide range of soils, including our famous “Colorado clay.”

Burr Oak at Tagawa Gardens. DenverBurr Oak

Last on our list, but definitely not least:  the Burr Oak.  This is the first tree suggested by Nancy, the Supervisor of our Nursery Department.  She calls it the “dreadnaught of the forest.”  Paints quite a picture, doesn’t it?

The Burr Oak is the largest tree on our list.  It can grow to be 50 feet tall and wide.  A “dreadnaught” indeed!

Burr Oaks have a moderate growth rate.  Their beautiful and substantial bark becomes deeply furrowed with age.  They have dark green leaves with the typical oak leaf silhouette.  The leaves turn a brownish yellow in the fall. They produce acorns every year.

This tree is remarkably cold-tolerant, and will adapt to a wide range of soils.

Choose from these, and a whole lot more using our NEW Plant Finder Tool!

Remember:  these are just a few of the excellent trees and shrubs that are especially well-suited for gardens in our area.  There are many more in our Nursery Department that could make a perfect addition to your Front Range landscape.

Use our NEW Plant Finder Tool on our website to search for these and other great Colorado trees, shrubs and even perennials and annuals that we carry! You can search for qualities like color, height, bloom time, wildlife attraction (or resistant) and more!

Come see our Nursery Professionals at Tagawa Gardens. Bring along a picture or two of your yard, including the areas you’re considering for a new tree or shrub.  We’ll be happy to help you pick out just the right one!

So, how do you plant a tree?

Tagawa’s Garden Ambassador Luan Akin shows you how!

Even trees and shrubs want to be appreciated!

Luan Akin and Certified Arborist Mike Landers chat about shrub and tree varieties that do great in the Metro Denver area, yet are not used enough!

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Luan Akin
Luan Akin
Tagawa Gardens Outreach Ambassador

After 30 years as a news reporter for KCNC TV in Denver, Luan Akin was ready for a change. In 2008, she came to Tagawa Gardens and offered to create a brand new position: Garden Outreach Ambassador.

Luan had trained and volunteered as a Douglas County Master Gardener for ten years. In addition to her duties as a news reporter, working primarily out of the Channel 4 News helicopter, Luan also produced and presented a long-running series of stories called “Gardening Together.”

All these years later, Luan now works year ‘round, presenting a variety of gardening and nature-related topics to hundreds of children, HOA’s, gardening clubs, church groups, small businesses and other organizations.

She is an avid gardener, a beekeeper and a proud mom to four dogs who have trained her well.


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