Budded Up


I was in bed long before midnight New Year’s Eve.  I never worry that the new year will get held up at the checkpoint unless I am watching.  Buck and I had a quiet dinner.  I turned in early; that sleep was deep. Did anyone enlist my help or interview me about the a year coming to a close, and a new year on the horizon?  Why would they? I am just one person making my best effort to garden my way through a life.  Just one gardener in a group of many tens of thousands.  Sure enough, the year, the season turned over without a hitch.  I had coffee at 5:20 am, as usual.  Everything seemed this first day of 2012 as it did the last day of 2011.

It will take two weeks for me to reliably make the change on my check date to 2012.  I may spend some time wringing my hands over my one year older age.  And then there will be the dreaded winter.  But in spite of the cold and the grey, there are signs of life in the garden.

A bud is a protuberance.  It is a growth sent forth from a previous structure.  Many trees, shrubs, and evergreen perennials put forth budded structures in advance of winter.  In early fall, the dogwoods bud up in anticipation of spring.   It is easy to tell the leaf buds from the flower buds.  I water my dogwoods copiously in the fall in anticipation of that budding, but they respond to another voice.  My dogwoods flower heavily every other year.  The spring to come will be a on year-a dogwood extravaganza.  The buds tell me so.

The forsythia start setting their flower buds not long after they bloom.  Late summer or fall pruning means you are pruning off the flowers to come in spring.  Lilacs and rhododendrons need pruning immediately after they bloom.  The summer and fall they devote their energy to next year’s flowers. The budding-a sure sign of the miracle of nature.  These fat buds will swell in the spring, giving rise to large and showy flowering trusses.  The flower heads must be 10 times the size of the bud. 

The magnolias and pachysandra bud up early in the fall.  You can spot their spring intentions in October, should you look.  I did walk my entire garden today-New Year’s Day.  My holiday obligations are done.  I have some time to myself.  Though the temperature was barely above freezing today, I was reassured, warmed by what I saw.  My garden has made plans for the spring.

All of my yews show signs of budding.  Those brown knobs contain the structure and the energy which will open up, and push new growth in the spring. In a good year, 8 inches of growth will begin and grow from each bud.  Each plant buds differently.  The structures, colors and forms are individual.  This means there is a lot to look at, even in the winter.  The winter is a tough time for me.  It seems to last at least a lifetime.  Todays tour tells me different.  Every tree and shrub has bet on spring.  I cannot really explain this, but I take great comfort from from the buds.   

 In embryology, the term budding refers to the process by which the living past gives life to the future. So simple, this sentence.  So beautifully complex and mesmerizing, the process.

 The new year finds sustenance from the compost of the previous year. Every plant has a plan to bud.  To emerge, in the spring.  It may seem that the winter is a long, quiet, and silent season.  But there is plenty going on out there. 

The roses look a little worse for wear, but for those bright red buds.  How they manage to look so juicy and alive in spite of the winter weather is nothing short of astonishing. 


A tree of heaven has many undesireable attributes, but that shiny brown leaf bud directly above last year’s leaf scar is quite beautiful.

This mass of forsythia is in a quiet stage of life, but inside a whole lot of yellow is brewing.


  1. I was just saying how I dislike January. All there is to look forward to is a long month of cold winter. Your post gave my hope that there are signs of the Spring to come…even in January.

    Thanks and Happy New Year.

  2. janet aronoff says

    I have thought for years that the trees et al are so beautiful and brave in the winter.They stand in their places without down coats and wave in the wind and cold , their buds tell us that nature is risilient beyond our short visit to this earth. Janet.

  3. I really like the perspective you have on the word “budding”. It also strikes me as a powerful metaphor especially in the context of mentoring. It made me think about the older “living past” in my life and how they have helped me to blossom and be fruitful.

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