“Along the Brandywine” Captures the Natural Beauty of Delaware

Along the Brandywine is a passion project for this local artist. Illustrations by Amanda B. Kimball

Local artist Amanda B. Kimball draws inspiration for her watercolor art from what springs up during wildflower season.

Before the pandemic, I occasionally ran through the state park close to our home, always admiring the incredible beauty of the area. When COVID-19 arrived and everything was shut down, I found myself on the wooded paths or river trails every day.

Suddenly, I began to see and hear things I had run right past before: the clouds of pale-blue lichen on the boulders in the woods, the masses of wild bluebells along the edge of the crop fields and the trilling song of the spring peepers—those impossibly tiny frogs that hide along the wetland path.

Native Delaware wildflower
From left: Virginia waterleaf (Hydrophyllum virginianum—native), bulbous buttercup (Ranunculus bulbosus—nonnative), bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis—native) and wild blue phlox (Phlox divaricate—native).

Carrying a slim notebook in my pocket, I began to sketch the things I found. The drawings were quick and fluid, with the aim to capture the wonder in the moment.

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This year, I am making a seasonal record of everything that is blooming, growing or revealing itself on a specific stretch of trail that runs through the woods along the Brandywine; careful notes of native and nonnative trees, plants and wildflowers will also be included.

The history of the area is an important part of this project as well and has led me into the world of old land records and county maps. I want to know more about who owned the steep wooded hillsides and traveled the narrow farm roads that are now bike trails, and discover the identities of the farmers who worked the land.

Hopefully by the end of this year, I will have managed to translate onto paper the sense of awe and joy I experienced with each new discovery. I hope you feel it too.

bluebell wildflower
Bluebells (Mertensia virginica—native) The morning I see them, they literally stop me in my tracks. A colony of bluebells—Virginia bluebells, to be exact—have sprung up almost overnight, and there are masses of them. Over a series of warm spring days, they’ve gone from stems of gray-green leaves to an abundance of unfurling bell-shaped blooms. The buds that are still tightly closed are the subtlest of pink, while those bursting open are a glowing periwinkle or pale cobalt blue. The effect is magical.
Native trout lily
Trout Lily (Erythronium americanum—native) Carpeting a sunny hillside, the delicate trout lily flowers stand out brightly against the background of their wonderfully brown spotted leaves. The day I come upon them, it is brisk and windy, causing the little nodding blooms to flutter like silent ringing bells.
Along the Brandywine art
From left: Solomon’s seal (Polygonatum biflorum—native) Philadelphia fleabane (Erigeron philadelphicus—native) common blue violet (Viola sororia—native) red clover (Trifolium pratense—nonnative). This little grouping represents some of the wildflowers that I sketch most often while they are in bloom. Although each is beautiful, the humble clover is my favorite! Most often, it can be found happily growing along the roadside or nestled on the edges of meadows and farm fields. It’s the leaves, with their chevron detail, that I almost like more than the flower.

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