A few days ago there were still clumps of snow clinging to the trees in my London street. This week, my hopeful search for the first buds that signal the start of Spring has ended: the buds are budding!!

Buds and catkins are often forgotten as plants’ attractive qualities, particularly on trees. And trees do flower! In this quiet time before the rush of life, it’s great to spot the colours and textures of these tightly wrapped flowers and leaves.

Magnolia buds

Magnolias throw out some of the most impressive flower buds; furred and up to 10cm long. The fur is a protection mechanism for the delicate growth…acting like a duvet.

quince branch

Budding quince branches celebrate Chinese New Year and are seen as a sign of good luck

Quince blossom

Quince is a really easy shrub to grow, and one of the first of the year to don pink or ruby flowers on its naked stems.

cherry blossom

Cherry blossoms first appear as small maroon and pink bobbles along the length of new branch growth then explode like confetti

Acer rubra budding

Maples have tightly-wrapped globed buds, which unwrap to allow tiny peppercorns of flower buds to spill out. My small Acer's flower buds then turn dark maroon and are followed by miniature, semi-transparent seed whirligigs. Just lovely.

larch buds

Larch buds erupt like small green pineapples from their woody bases. These slowly open into bright pink flower-like bracts.

willow buds

Willows also have super-furry buds, fantastic to stroke. They explode into green catkins as the weather warms.

Magnolia buds thumbnail
quince_branch thumbnail
Quince blossom thumbnail
cherry blossom thumbnail
Acer rubra budding thumbnail
larch buds thumbnail
willow_buds thumbnail

Perhaps pick up a few willow branches at the flower shop to bring inside and fondle. Tip: small whole natural branches look better than the dead-straight twigs more widely sold.

What buds or early flowerers have you spotted?