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It’s Time to Slow Down and Appreciate Nature’s Tiny Marvels

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“Look at that larva,” said Andrew J. Brand one afternoon as we passed the back-eye shrubs of an old hammock bottle brush in the yard.

Instead of being embarrassed to admit that he didn’t notice anything, I immediately thought he was a caterpillar looking in the direction of his gaze.

What he spy on looked to me just another of many twigs, protruding from the branches at a slight angle. But it wasn’t a stick. It was a rod-shaped larva in the form of a well-disguised larva such as the inchworm. It was a very unobtrusive, mysterious creature that could be eaten without eating, hiding in a place that no one could see. Except for Brand.

It may not be surprising that those with a master’s degree in tissue culture, that is, those who breed plants from the original small pieces or mere cells, should pay close attention to the finer details of the organism. not. His work when he had a degree, with the help of a magnifying glass and a microscope, states:.. “

It seems that it hasn’t changed much since then.However, Mr. Brand’s current mission as a gardening director is Coastal Main Botanical GardenAt Booth Bay, make sure that the big picture scene also fascinates us.

Over 300 acres of public space, which welcomed more than 250,000 visitors in 2021, over 20 acres with nature-focused features such as bee apiaries and exhibitions of native bees There is an exhibition garden. Native butterfly and moth houses are planted with host and nectar plants. It is a diet for both larvae and adults, and is carefully harmonized so that various species can complete their entire life cycle there.

Beyond arable land, the trail invites visitors deep into the main forest, along a narrow path through the towering spruce and pine forests, towards a tidal river with seagulls and ospreys.

After working at Broken Arrowner Sally in Hamden, Connecticut for 27 years, Brand’s favorite place to start working in 2018 is the public side, which specializes in rare and unusual plants. He was the nursery manager there, watching the plants and observing the visitors as they were in Maine.

He can’t help himself: he wants to ensure that everyone experiences the equivalent of our caterpillar moments.

“Did you see that?” He asked the couple he was watching while filming a larger scene in a children’s yard in Maine at the end of one summer. He then bent over and offered an instant tour of the small spotted flowers of the lesser cuckoo (Tricyrtis hirta) near the ground.

No, they missed it. Their reaction: “I can’t believe it.”

In the absence of an audience, small wonders like the lesser cuckoo, a shaded garden plant native to Japan, may get Brand to get an iPhone camera. Exactly one day in February, he spy on a single backlit floret of a still-hanging faded Panicled hydrangea.

Indeed, the summer eruptions of hundreds of florets shrubs gathered on each of the many giant flower heads stopped the moment of pleasing the crowd. But it was the pattern of the individual florets that caught his attention, so he went to zero.

“Nature’s stained glass,” he commented. His Instagram page When he posted a close-up of that old flowering. Brand is neither a social media influencer nor a professional photographer, but his friends and colleagues look forward to seeing what he sees and shares with the hashtag #observeconnectexperience.

His observations often focus on what he calls “the splendor of small scenes.”

At every small moment, quietly remind you not to rush to the next garden chore or be distracted by the flashy and obvious things. Instead: Slow down and see for yourself.

A colleague who runs a botanical garden shop recently asked me to make some of the photos into greeting cards. (A calendar is coming soon.) Sure, it was a compliment, but it wasn’t his motive.

Even for those with his formal botany education and decades of career experience, camera phones were the window to a self-guided lifelong curriculum. Take out the phone and take a picture to take in another layer of understanding.

As he describes continuing education and our education, this is “deepening into more than just cleanliness.” “Not only can you put a lot of pretty pictures there, but hopefully you can inspire others and myself to learn more.”

He wonders why the butterfly is hanging upside down under the flower and is approaching. Sure enough, he found the culprit: a white crab spider caught a butterfly.

“And when I looked into the’crab spider’, the spider could turn yellow when riding the goldenrod, and …” he walked away and ands looked endless.

Enlarging a close-up of lupine flowers, he explores how native lupines (Lupinus perennis) are nearly extinct from Maine. Instead, the western North American species, L. polyphyllus, which escaped from the garden and became an invasive species, is now ubiquitous along the state’s roadside.

He said he looked into the beautiful alien screen. “It starts thinking in my brain.’How does this plant pollinate?’ And I stop doing what I’m doing and start looking at bees.”

Small seeds cannot fully open the individual clamshell-like flowers typical of legume families. The bumblebee can complete his work and get the pollen inside, he notices, but the little guy can’t.

Lupines continue to be Mr. Brand’s charm, whether they are in bloom or not. This is especially true on foggy mornings when hair-covered leaves drip with dew beads. To really know a plant is to see it in all kinds of weather and light, and in incarnations of all seasons.

Even in winter, he provides a lot of material to Mr. Brand and his phone. He became a puddle enthusiast and saw the potential of puddles (and his face), including Picasso-style portraits and “frozen foam tapestries.”

As he admits in one post, he has a “wild imagination”.

Brand does not use any special techniques to create his images. He continues to make sense to take online courses with his iPhone camera, but instead he continues to take pictures.

He prefers to use no filters and draw special effects from underwater reflections and dramatic angles of light rather than software. He simply finds the subject, frames it, zooms in and then touches the screen to lock the focus where he wants it. Then take multiples of all subjects to increase the probability of success.

On a recent walk beside the pond, Mr. Brand came across various dragonfly hulls, the hulls of young dragonflies. Dragonflies begin their lives as aquatic insects in the case of larvae. Upon reaching adulthood, they must grab the stems of sedges and other nearby plants and climb out of the water.

If all goes well, the final step in the metamorphosis: the case tears, the winged creature molts, leaving the exuviae ready to chase the prey and make its first flight.

“When I post a photo or a dragonfly spends most of its life underwater, most people don’t know what it is,” he said. “Maybe my picture will make them think about it and ask,’What are you doing for the rest of the time at other life stages?'”

Returning to the bed and border, Mr. Brand admits his obsession with various garden plants. For example, he grows more than 125 varieties and seeds of Epimedium, and his current collection is about 75.

“They have a delicate, almost frail look,” he said. “But they are very tough and durable.”

But his naturalists are, above all, accepted by the natives, like Milkweed, which thrives in a variety of habitats, including moist, dry, full sun, and partial shade.

Asclepiasexaltata, a pork milkweed, really likes its high canopy shade or forest edge. Swamp passionflower (A. incarnata) can get wet, as its common name implies. Butterfly weed (A. tuberosa) is extremely drought resistant.

And the general milkweed (A. syriaca) field is Mr. Brand’s fun time idea.

“You step into it, and the noise from insect life is incredible,” he said. “And it has a very sweet scent.”

He notices a bee hanging on his foot in a flower and needs to solve a new puzzle. What does that mean?

“I love when you can get in there and just take your time,” he said.

“And it’s constantly changing,” he added.

Best Drama: A meadow full of milkweed, with pods exploding and blowing in the wind.

Some captions of the images he posted about such moments: “I’m sailing. I’m floating towards the sun.” And: “A new beginning flies.”

Please keep an eye out.


Margaret Roach is the creator of websites and podcasts Road to the gardenAnd a book of the same name.

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