Flower buds vs. leaf buds
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.
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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.)
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
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
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.