This Bud's For You!

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Time for a little pop quiz. During our recent foggy, drippy, sunny weather (when is it anything else?) I took the opportunity to capture some of my trees in their winter dormancy, showing off their nice fat buds for next year. This years growing season started way back in August, or even earlier on some trees, when our bonsai began to develop and set buds for next year. If you have ever pinched a spruce in spring, you have felt that little round nodule at the tip of the shoot – next year’s bud already forming. The buds really come with a lot of variety and a lot of different aspects.  

When you take a look at the following photos, study them closely to see the characteristics of each one and how to recognize them. They can be a great help in identifying a tree’s species, diagnosing any problems, and as a gauge to general health and strength of a particular tree or individual shoot. See how many of these buds you can identify. You even get some helpful clues with the conifer foliage. At the end I will have the key and a few worthy notes that demonstrate something particular about that tree. Have fun!


Bud Key

A.    Japanese Arctic Willow
B.    Vine Maple – who knew that these were so hairy? Notice the tiny internodes. This is on a very small shohin size group of trees – very unusual and difficult to maintain for this species.
C.    European Beech – Long, lance like bronze buds. I pull all the leaves off in the fall – beech normally retain their old leaves until spring growth pushes them off.
D.    Ginkgo
E.    Japanese Maple – this one happens to be Deshojo, a variety with red leaves in the spring.
F.    Katsura – this reminds me of deer hooves.
G.    Linden –
H.    Star Magnolia – Huge wooly flower buds. Note the relatively small leaf bud to the right.
I.    Styrax – Japanese Snowbell. These greenish buds appear in early winter. But don’t worry, they won’t elongate until the time is right.
J.    Wisteria – These are fairly pointed. The buds on my other wisteria are very plump and round right now.
K.    Plum – Please note that these are all flower buds. They are much larger and plumper than leaf buds. Flower buds also tend to have a bit of copper color, whereas the leaf buds can be flatter and duller. You can actually see a few leaf buds at the very tip of the branch – just tiny little points. It is very important with all prunus species (Plum, Apricot, Cherry, Peach, Almond) that you do not prune back past the last leaf bud. You can’t count on there being a leaf bud being present where flower buds are. This is especially true with any double blossomed forms. If you prune off the leaf buds, then your branch may die back to the nearest main branch, thus losing ramification. For that reason, I like to prune my plums post flowering. Pruning the tips in late summer helps to encourage the development of leaf buds closer to the trunk.
L.    Japanese Quince – Note the large flower bud developing. There is a smaller leaf bud just below it, but a bit out of focus.
M.    Red Alder – This one is growing very vigorously in the ground and this is the apical bud – that is why is aimed vertically. One of our natives.
N.    Japanese Black Pine – Healthy black pine buds are creamy white and very pointed.
Less vigorous are darker, redder, and rounder.
O.    Lodgepole Pine – These are usually covered with a bit of resin.
P.    Douglas Fir – Very distinctive, red, pointed, and scaled buds. The longer and pointier, the healthier.
Q.    Ponderosa Pine – Note the large central bud and several smaller ones tucked in next to it.
R.    Japanese Red Pine – One of my favorite photos. Now you know how it got its name.
S.    Subalpine Fir – OK, so this was a little tricky, but here for a reason. There is no bud in this photo. This shoot was probably pinched earlier in the year. It’s healthy now, with great foliage. It will most likely lose vigor in the next year or two and die. It will not likely produce another bud. Its replacement is more likely to come from an adjoining branch that continues to grow strong, creating some back buds.
T.    Mountain Hemlock. These buds are incredibly tiny. A little clue that they grow very slowly.
U.    Engelmann Spruce – This really shows the arrangement of needles all the way around the branch.