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Flower buds vs. leaf buds

Plum budsCan you tell the flower buds from the leaf buds on your fruit trees?  The distinction is important if you prune in the winter, but it's also handy to be able to guess whether your young trees are going to bear fruit this year or not.

In general, flower buds are fat and round while leaf buds are more pointy and less significant.  The differences really become obvious at this time of year when the flower buds are swelling up in preparation for opening, in contrast to leaf buds that are still dormant.  (Well, unless you're a plum, as is shown above, which tends to spit out leaves at the same time it blooms.)

Apple budsApple buds are a bit trickier, but share the same general theme.  Most apple varieties bloom on fruiting spurs, which are simply dwarfed twigs sticking out the sides of your branches.  You might find a single flower bud (shown on the right) on a spur, or it might be an entire cluster.  The photo on the left shows an inconspicuous apple leaf bud.

Pears buds are similar to apples while peaches are similar to plums.  Cherries fall somewhere in between.

We got a slow start on our apples, but our oldest tree (a Virginia Beauty planted three years ago) seems to be covered with flower buds this year.  Similarly, our three year old Methley plum is also dotted with plump flower buds.

I'm trying hard not to count my fruit before they ripen, though.  I've learned from experience that late freezes can easily wipe out flower buds, and that young trees often drop their flowers the first year rather than setting fruit.  In addition, since my Virginia Beauty may be the only apple in my orchard who's ready to bloom this year, the precocious tree might not get pollinated.

The plum might have issues as well.  When I bought the tree, it was marked as self-pollinating, but now I'm seeing that Methley plums are Japanese type plums and require pollinators --- I guess I'll see who's right depending on whether we sink our teeth into juicy plum flesh this year or not.  Although it would be a bummer to have to wait another three years to eat homegrown plums, I never mind an excuse to expand our fruit selection.

Our chicken waterer is always POOP-free.


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You could always graft another branch on for cross pollination (so topical). Our 2 n 1 plum is loaded with blooms this spring hopefully we'll get more than a couple plums from it this year.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/20378685@N00/6961847803/in/photostream

When you first talked about top working I ordered some grafting wax and went on a hunt for some scionwood. Hopefully after this week's lunchtime series I'll be ready to give it a try this weekend.

Thanks for all the useful and timely info!

Comment by Brian Wed Mar 7 10:30:42 2012

Why didn't I think of that?! Of course that's the best thing to do. Might be too late for this year now that the plum's broken dormancy, but I'm not sure. Better go research....

Congratulations on your beautiful tree!

Comment by anna Wed Mar 7 12:02:49 2012