Isn't it great when we can say those words? The leaf buds covering my trees, the ones I was oh so worried about, are perfectly normal.
I had never seen this when I lived in the desert Southwest, but perhaps that has to do with the fact that plants in that region don't need to work quite as hard. The temperatures are very rarely below freezing, so that means (and I'm only guessing here) that the few trees and shrubs in the area don't have to start shooting out buds prior to winter at the same level as woody plants in the upper Midwest.
I was actually worried that the buds had to do with the higher than normal temperatures, coupled with the lack of rain that we received last year. While this may have had some bearing on the specific timing of the buds' presence, it was not the reason that I saw buds prior to winter itself.
Good to know, right?
It turns out, woody plants generally produce small buds before winter. During the winter, they're mostly dormant, so the production of leaf buds prior to the season gives them a step up when the spring thaw arrives.
Rosemary's Blog explains that these are called resting buds. She says that these resting buds are actually a great way to identify different tree types, due to their distinct look. Fascinating! She also has some great images on that post that are truly worth viewing.
I'm relieved to discover that the buds I'm seeing are simply due to a different climate zone. I don't remember seeing them last year, but then, I wasn't looking, either!
It's amazing just how much more a person can see when they open their minds to the environment around them.