“look at that Kamla“Andrew J. Brand said one afternoon when we passed a humble old bottlebrush buckeye bush in our garden.
What the caterpillar, I thought, quickly trained my eyes in the direction of its gaze rather than embarrass itself by admitting that I had seen nothing.
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What he spied seemed to me to be nothing but several twigs, jumping from a branch at a slight angle. But it was not a stick. It was a stick caterpillar, a well-disguised larval form of some geometry. insect Or the other – a creature so imperceptible, so enigmatic, that it can eat without eating, hiding in plain sight from everyone – except Brand.
Perhaps it should come as no surprise that someone with a master’s degree in tissue culture – propagating plants from small pieces or mere cells of origin – should have a keen eye for the finer points of living organisms. Her job while earning her degree with the aid of magnifiers and microscopes: “Working with tiny things, cutting them into tiny pieces, and really observing.”
Little has changed since then, it seems. But the current mandate of the brand as a director gardening As for the Coastal Maine Botanical Garden in Boothbay, it’s sure to make sure the big-picture views captivate us as well.
The 300-plus acres of public space, which welcomed more than 250,000 visitors in 2021, includes more than 20 acres of display gardens with nature-focused features such as an ape for bees and a native-bee exhibition. A native-butterfly-and-insect house planted with host and nectar plants – food for both larvae and adults – is carefully matched so that each species can complete its entire life cycle there.
Beyond the cultivated areas, the trails invite visitors deep into the Maine wilderness, with narrow paths through vast spruce and pine forest, leading to a tidal river dotted with seagulls and osprey.
The public aspect is one of the things the brand loves most about the place where they began operating in 2018, 27 years after the Broken Arrow Nursery, in Hamden, Connecticut, specializes in rare and unusual plants. He was the nursery manager there, and, as he does in Maine now, he oversaw botanical activity and found visitors to himself while viewing the gardens.
He can’t help himself: He wants to make sure everyone experiences an equal to our caterpillar moment.
“did you see?” He asked a couple that he was watching as they were taking in the big scene. children’s garden Late one summer in Maine. Then he leaned in to offer a quick tour of the small, spotted flowers of the toad lily near ground level.
No, they missed it. His response: “Incredible.”
a fade. In Flowernature stained glass
When there’s no audience, a small miracle like the toad lily, a shade-garden plant from Japan, might just be what the brand is reaching for. iphone camera. He did exactly that one February day when he spied a single, backlit floret of a faded hydrangea paniculata that was still hanging.
Surely, the warmth of the hundreds of flowering bushes clustered in each of the many giant flower heads was arresting a crowd-pleasing moment. But it was the pattern in that individual floret that caught his attention, so he had zeroed in.
“Nature’s stained glass,” he remarked on his instagram page when he posted a close-up of that long-gone Bloom. The brand is neither a social media influencer nor a professional photographer, but friends and colleagues are eager to see what they see, and share, with the hashtag #observeconnectexperience.
His way of observing is often focused on what he calls “greatness in small scenes”.
Each little moment quietly reminds us not to rush into the next garden chore or be distracted by the showy, obvious stuff. Instead, slow down and really watch.
a colleague who runs the vegetation GardenThe store recently asked some of his pictures to be used as greeting cards. (Calendars also coming soon.) It was a compliment, sure, but it wasn’t what inspired them.
Even for someone with his or her formal botanical education and decades of career experience, the camera phone has been a window into a self-guided, lifelong course. Get out the phone, take a picture – and take another layer of understanding.
As he describes his continuing education and our education, it is to “dig deep into what is not just beautiful”. “Not only to put out a bunch of beautiful pictures, but to hopefully inspire others and myself to learn more.”
Asking, ‘Why, why, why?’
Why so? butterfly Hanging upside down under that flower, he wonders, moving closer. Sure enough, he finds the culprit: a white crab spider had stunned the butterfly.
“And then you look at the ‘crab spider’, and you find that the spider may turn yellow when it’s on the goldenrod, and…” He retreated, and appears to be infinite.
Zooming in for a lupine flower, he considers how the native lupine (Lupinus perennis) has been nearly eradicated from Maine. Instead, the bigleaf lupine (L. polyphilus), a western North American species that escaped from gardens and became invasive, is now ubiquitous along the state. shore,
Watching the beautiful alien on screen, he said, “It makes me think, ‘How is this plant pollinated?’ And then I stop what I’m doing and start watching the bees.”
The smaller species can’t quite wrestle to open the individual clamshell-like flowers typical of members of the pea family. The bumblebees are able to get the job done and take in the pollen, he notices, but the little ones can’t.
In bloom or not, lupine remains a fascination for the brand, especially on a foggy morning when its hair-covered leaves drip with pearls of dew. To really know a plant is to see it in all kinds of weather and light – and in every seasonal incarnation.
and also winter Offers a lot of content for the brand and its phones. He has become a connoisseur of puddles, seeing the possibilities (and faces) within them, including Picasso-esque drawings and “a tapestry of frozen bubbles”.
He has a “wild imagination,” as he admits in a post.
stories that dragonfly exuvia can tell
The brand does not use any special technology to create its images. He has been meaning to take an online course on the iPhone camera, but instead just continues to take pictures.
He doesn’t use filters, preferring his special effects to come from reflections. Water Or a dramatic angle of light instead of software. He simply finds and frames his subject, zooms in and then touches the screen to lock the focus where he wants it – and takes multiples of each subject to improve his odds of success.
On a recent pond walk, the brand came across various Dragonfly Exuvia – the outer cover of young dragonflies. Dragonflies begin their lives as aquatic insects inside a larval case. on arrival adulthoodThey should grab onto the stem of the sedge or other nearby plant and get out of the water.
final stage in TransformIf all goes well: the case opens, and the winged creature molts, ready to take its maiden flight in search of prey, leaving Exuvia behind.
“Most people wouldn’t know that if I posted pictures, or that dragonflies spend most of their lives in the water,” he said, although he suspects that some people may have seen Exuvia before while kayaking or canoeing. “Maybe my picture will prompt them to think about it – and to ask, ‘What is it doing the rest of the time, in its other life stages?
that magical milkweed
Back in beds and borders, the brand conjures up a passion for various garden plants. For example, he has grown over 125 varieties and species of Epimedium, and his current collection is around 75.
“He has a delicate, almost vulnerable look,” he said. “But they are very tough and durable.”
Among them the naturalist is most commonly taken up by the natives, however – as milkweeds (Asclepias), which thrive in a variety of habitats: wet, dry, full sun, partial shade.
Asclepias exaltata, the poke milkweed, really likes that high-canopy shade or woodland edge. Swamp milkweed (A. avatar) can wet it, as its common name suggests. Butterflyweed (A. tuberosa) is extremely drought-tolerant.
And a field of mango milkweed (A syriaca) is the brand’s idea of a good time.
“You walk into that, and the noise from insect life is unbelievable,” he said. “Plus, it smells lovely.”
He sees some bees hanging by one leg in the flowers, and needs to solve a new puzzle. What is that all about?
“I love when you can get out there and just take your time,” he said, “and turn in a circle and see so many different things”—be it a butterfly, a bee, or a beetle.
“And it changes constantly,” he said.
Highest drama: A meadow full of milk in the fall, when the seedpods burst and are blown into the wind.
Some of the captions for the photos he posted of such moments are: “I’m moving away. Swimming towards the sun. ” And: “New beginnings take flight.”
be on the lookout.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.
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