Meet My Buds

A couple of recent posts from Heirloom Cottage Garden and New Hampshire Garden Solutions inspired me to go out into the garden and take pictures of the buds on our woody plants. Too late I realized that you’re supposed to have a special lens, which we don’t have, to take this kind of picture. Nevertheless, I did my best.


When you look closely at buds you are reminded that in winter plants are full of life, pent up and just waiting for the right moment to burst forth – like runners at a starting line up (though I imagine their knees get pretty uncomfortable while waiting for the race to start).

Above are buds on Spicebush (Lindera benzoin). Spicebush blooms very early, before it leafs out, and I can imagine its little yellow flowers tightly wrapped under their covers, called the bud scales.


This is another early spring bloomer with yellow flowers, Forsythia (unknown variety).


These Red Elderberry (Sambucus racemosa) buds look like they are ready to leaf out whenever they feel like it. Pretty much all the buds I’m showing in this post are called imbricate, which means they have three or more overlapping scales.


The purple color of  the bud scales on this Common Lilac (Syringa vulgaris) hints at the flower color to come.


Now here’s a bud that looks like it’s wrapped up tight for winter – it’s not leafing out until it knows the coast is clear. This is an American Fringe Tree (Chionanthus virginicus).



On a non-bud matter, over here is an embarrassing example of what happens when you stick a plant in an out-of-the-way place. This is an American Witch Hazel (Hamemelis virginiana). I have never seen it bloom! I just don’t get around to that part of the garden in late October or November. But I know it DOES bloom because the branches are full of open seed capsules, which look sort of like little yellow flowers.

Another thing about this Witch Hazel is that it holds onto its leaves through the winter. They turn a nice brownish red color.


Here are the buds on our Clove Current (Ribes odoratum). I like the cinnamon color of the stem.


This is Chokecherry, Prunus virginiana. It’s what we amateur botanists call A Very Pointy Bud.


And here’s a perky-looking bud on our ‘Darlow’s Enigma’ Rose.

There are days when I feel this whole “winter interest” thing is a scam, but that is churlish and ignorant on my part. The garden may seem boring during winter, but there are signs of life if you are willing to look closely.

34 Comments on “Meet My Buds”

  1. You got some cool ones there. Forsythia, red elderberry and lilac! I just wrote about dividing the forsythia. I know it is common there, but to us, it is quite rare, and quite impressive in bloom. Although we have our own rare native version of the red elderberry, we lack Sambucus racemosa here. Lilac, like forsythia, really should be more popular than it is. Most of what is available here are French hybrids, which were introduced as lilacs that would do well in the mild climate. However, they are not as prolific as the common lilac, which actually does just fine here.

  2. I used to worry about buds during winter but I have learned over the years that they are mostly tough characters. I do enjoy getting out during a cold winter day and perusing the buds in the garden. Just knowing they haven’t given up with this cold weather gives me the fortitude to carry on, waiting for those warmer temps.
    My native witch hazel is always a surprise when it blooms even though it is right where I can see it. I sometimes overlook it for days before I pay attention to it. It is actually the stock root that Jelena was attached to. So the top blooms in fall and the bottom (Jelena) blooms during winter. I like seeing those little seed cups. A term which is no doubt very professional. 😉

  3. I’ll have to look at the buds around here, too. I noticed our Ozark witch hazel in Asheville was loaded with buds before we left. One of the sassafras trees is, too — the one next to it, hmm, it may have succumbed to some sort of root rot, as it didn’t have any, uncharacteristically…

  4. I think your winter bud pictures are great! Your Spicebush sure is beautiful and I love Witch Hazel! I really need to think more about planting some shrubs and trees for winter interest as well. Anything up here has to be tall or it will be buried by the middle of December! Oh, and I really liked the “very pointy bud”! 😀

    P. S. Thanks for the mention!

  5. What a good selection of shrubs with their buds.i have several of them too, including the lilac, witch hazel, choke cherry, fringe tree, rose. It is only the forsythia that I cut in January to force indoors. Your post just made me think I should try the same with other buds.

  6. All those buds bursting with life are a great promise of spring. I lived on my property for twenty-five years before I over noticed the native witch hazels blooming along the side of the driveway (and along my dirt road, and by the mailbox). Part of the reason, I think, is that the colors are the same color as the fall foliage. It’s easy to miss them until the leaves fall off, leaving the fringy flowers to light up the November woods.

  7. I’ve never seen witchhazel, and it soon will be time for it to be blooming here, I think. I’m not even certain it’s in my area. I thought I’d spotted it one year, but it turned out to be dodder, which is quite a different story. You did well conveying the variety among the buds — so pleasing.

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