Signals the start of everything big!
We missed, says D.D., in going on and on about budbreak without
defining it. "Most of your pruning instructions make it a reference
point. So, what is budbreak?
So glad you asked!
Budbreak is a major reference point in the gardening calendar. A
plant may respond to pruning one way before budbreak, another way
after. Many insects, including those most likely to feed on a given
plant's foliage, appear in perfect synchrony with budbreak so we
synchronize our control measures with it, too. We can even gauge
soil temperature -- a bed's readiness for weeding or seeding -- by
whether certain plants have broken bud.
Budbreak occurs when increasing
daylight and warmth, and the
wearing off of natural chemical
brakes, combine so growth
resumes that has been "on hold"
since fall. The shoots waited out
winter, fully formed but
compressed under resinous scales
or other protective covers. In
spring they fill with water and
push their covers off.
At right: A red horsechestnut
proceeds -- beautifully -- through
budbreak. The arrow points to
one of the resin-filled protective
"bud scales" that cover the shoot
Each plant species has its
own time to break bud.
It's one of the most beautiful
things in a garden. We like
it to go on and on. Yet we'd
probably overdose if it
all happened at once.
Budbreak makes each day
a treasure, from the
cold day in late winter
when the skunk cabbage
literally heats its way up
through the ice in a
woodland pond to the
"Ta da!" eruption of
silk tree and Hibiscus
leaves just as we've
decided those plants must
have died over winter.
Getting to know spring buds
is a big step in learning to
identify leafless plants.
We notice that buds are
as distinctive as any other
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It can be said that summer flowers break bud, too. However,
in-season bud formation and bloom is a continuous flow. It's
beautiful but doesn't match the drama inherent to a process broken
by a long winter pause.