We Have Leaf Separation!

Our buds seem to be over their "separation anxiety."
Our buds seem to be over their “separation anxiety.” (Thank you to one of our readers for that fun play on words).

Ten days after our official “bud break,” we are finally seeing our first fireworks!  The little green leaves that have been bound up tightly within the buds are finally starting to open.

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It’s hard to believe that less than two weeks ago, this little green shoot was just a pinkish-brown nub about the size of an eraser on a pencil.

I can walk around the vineyard for hours  just looking at these little green shoots.  They are so delicate and beautiful and no two are alike. With their pretty pastel colors of green and pink, they kind of remind me of decorated Easter eggs. I hope you will indulge me by looking at a few baby pictures:

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You have to catch the leaves just after they unfurl to see that pretty pink color along their edges. It disappears as the leaves grow and mature.
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The little pink bud under these leaves looks ready to open, too. When it does, it will be a secondary shoot and we will likely remove it to maintain air flow through the vines.
Eventually, each little cluster of leaves will grow into a green shoot that will produce grape clusters and tendrils.
Eventually, each little cluster of leaves will grow into a green shoot that will produce grape clusters and tendrils.

Along with the excitement of watching these little beauties leaf out, we are collecting some good data on growth patterns in our vineyard. All of the above pictures were taken in the north/northeast end of the vineyard where the vines are leafing out ahead of the rest of the vineyard. This surprised me at first, because this end of the vineyard is bordered by some tall trees that shade the vines for part of the day.  But I think the trees also provide a wind break that is warming and protecting the vines, thus convincing them it is safe to open their leaves.

Two buds in the south/southwest end of the vineyard.
Two buds in the south/southwest end of the vineyard.

As you move south/southwest through the vineyard, most of the buds look like the buds in the photo above. These buds are awake but their tender leaves are still bound together. Without the protection of the trees, it must be too chilly in this part of the vineyard for the vines to expose their leaves just yet.

The arm in the foreground is a cordon that was laid out prior to the last growing season.  The arm running into the background is a cane laid out a few months ago
The right arm of this vine is a cordon and the left arm is a cane. The cordon was laid out the winter before last, in early 2013, while the cane was laid out this past winter.

The most interesting thing  we’ve noticed so far is that the buds on our cane pruned vines are opening well ahead of the buds on the cordon pruned vines.  (If you are not sure of the difference between the two pruning methods, check out this earlier post on our cordon vs cane pruning experiment). At first we thought this was because most of the cordon vines are in a cooler part of the vineyard than the cane vines. But then we took a look at the vine in the above photo, which we pruned to have one cordon arm and one cane arm.

The buds on the cordon arm of the vine still have not shed all of their protective fibers.
The buds on the cordon arm of the vine still have not shed all of their protective fibers.

And sure enough, on the very same vine, the buds on the cordon are lagging behind the buds on the cane.  The two buds in the above photo are from the cordon arm of the vine.  As you can see, the leaves haven’t even begun to separate. The photo below is of a bud on the cane arm of the same vine.  It’s not as advanced as the buds along the tree line, but you can see its leaves are starting to separate.

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The leaves of this bud on the cane arm of the vine are starting to separate.

We won’t know until harvest whether the slower bud break on the cordon arms is a good thing or a bad thing.  For now, it means less exposed green tissue should we get a spring frost.  And that’s good.  But if the cordon vines continue to lag throughout the growing season, that could mean a later harvest for their grapes than for the grapes on the cane vines.  And if we are scrambling to pick our grapes before heavy rains or migrating birds ruin our crop, that delay could be very bad.

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A happy shoot with the protective trees in the background.

And so, it is a bit like The Tortoise and The Hare, but with grape vines.  Will slow and steady win the race? Or is a quick start the key to a strong finish? I predict more than a few sleepless nights before harvest as I ponder those questions.

 

 

 

 

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