The relationship between freezable water and cold hardiness during acclimation was studied using vegetative buds from several apple (Malus domestica Borkh) cultivars and from one saskatoonberry (Amelanchier alnifolia Nutt. cv. Smoky) cultivar. According to leakage data and visual assessments of cortical browning, vegetative buds of all cultivars were most tolerant to subfreezing temperatures in January. The hardy condition was also associated with maximum tolerance to desiccation. Qualitative features of freezing exotherms (number of peaks and temperature of the transition) were not correlated with the hardy condition in the tissues. However, the amount of unfrozen water, determined by quantifying the energy of the exotherms, increased with increasing hardiness. In buds that survived exposure to −45°C, freezing reduced the intracellular water content, but only to levels above the critical moisture content for desiccation damage. In buds that did not survive exposure to −45°C, freezing reduced the water content to levels equal to or less than the critical moisture content for desiccation damage. These observations suggest that the freezing of water in nonhardy tissue dried the tissue to moisture levels at which severe dehydration damage occurred. It appears that acclimation of vegetative apple buds involves at least two processes: (1) an increase in tolerance to dehydration and (2) an increase in the level of unfreezable water.