Tree Following: Chestnut Bud Development.

Despite a bitterly cold day today, spring is racing ahead and it’s hard to keep up. Some of the Horse Chestnut trees in the village are getting leafy. Now I am looking more at trees in general it is interesting to note how early this tree has come into leaf. It must be one of the earliest. The newly opening buds are really beautiful. As the feathery, deeply ridged new leaves open up they reveal a tiny new flower spike, each floret tightly curled.

On the drawing board

This bud is only just opening and the protective scales and the outside surfaces of the leaves are still hairy


Watercolour and pencil 6 x 8” approx

This one has opened up quite a bit more. The small leaflets are breaking free.


This one has opened further: pencil and watercolour approx 6 x 8” approx

This twig below has no flower buds, they are only developing into leaves. It’s hard to believe these tiny delicate furled things will develop into the huge shady parasols of the mature trees. For me it’s always that bucolic scene of dozing cattle, swishing tails and chewing cud, sheltering from the sun under its generous spreading boughs. Such a beautiful parkland tree.


Pencil and watercolour sketch 8 x10

Lucy, who is organising the tree following posed the question. “Is it possible to tell before the buds open up which will have flowers and which won’t.” I have never really thought about it so had another look at the tree today.

What I noticed is that the buds low down or near the trunk are not opening to flower spikes, just leaves. Buds at the end of the outside branches all seem to have flower spikes. Which makes quite a bit of sense. Flowers need to be up and out there, where the pollinators can find them.

chestnut-26th-bg T

he big candelabra flowers spikes will be a challenge to draw!

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  1. This is so exciting – and beautiful drawings! The work that you are putting into this! Thanks for looking into the flower/leaf bud question. I've been peering at an apple tree trying to work out the same thing. I find I can't tell the difference between the two until they open. I suspect I might learn more if I tried to draw them. Perhaps those of us who aren't artists should be drawing too.

  2. Hi there Lucy, well it was such an intriguing question! I don't think I am any further forward knowing which might be which and I wonder what triggers the choice? The mysterious world of nature gets more mysterious every day to me. That's why I love it!
    I can't remember the gardener who advocated drawing plants to those who want to grow them…of course it's not really the drawing that is her point, it's the looking 🙂
    It is, however rather time consuming!

  3. What beautiful drawings. There are few horse chestnuts in the Normandy landscape and I think they're way behind in development compared to yours – which is interesting in view of the fact we're probably 250 miles south of you – inland from le Mont-St-Michel. I will look forward to seeing your 'candelabras'. 🙂

    You could join in the live species mapping on The Woodland Trust's site…

    Best wishes, Carole de Normandie

  4. I don't understand what these drawings are of, Val – and you may well know them already – but they are so beautiful I'd leave you the link.

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