"Nature will bear the closest inspection. She invites us to lay our eye level with her smallest leaf, and take an insect view of its plain."-Henry David Thoreau
I had a great discussion with a friend the other day about...leaves. Yep. LEAVES.
If you read my stuff, you pretty much know that I'm obsessed with Catappa, Guava, and other leaves in my 'scapes. And, being the obsessed type, I have learned to appreciate subtle distinctions not only between types of leaves, but between different "specimens" of the same variety.
And I've realized that we're sort of in a different "mind space" about using leaves and botanicals in our aquaria than we have been in previous years. The "New Botanical" movement -yeah, I'd call it a "movement"- embraces the variety and dynamics of leaves and other botanicals in aquatic environments.
What do I mean?
Well, leaves (and to a lesser extent, botanicals) have been utilized in aquariums for some time- typically for environmental enrichment, etc. Nowadays, we're referring to them in the context of aquascaping "props" and legitimate enhancements to hardscape. We realize that, even with their "transient" nature, they can be an integral and dynamic part of a natural aquascape. In fact, part of the "charm", if you will, of using leaves in our aquaecapes is that they decompose, constantly changing the scape.
When we select leaves to send you, we're not just grabbing 10 random large Catappa, or 16 "nano"-sized Catappa, etc. We're taking the time to actually look at the ones we're sending you. We're looking for quality, character, color. Not every leaf is perfect: They have blemishes, imperfections, crinkles, etc. Some are acceptable, because they keep a "look" going. Others are degraded too much for 'scaping, and we wouldn't want to use them in our own display, so they are rejected.
We're looking for great leaves; specimens which stand on their own as singular examples of nature's beauty.
Yeah, we actually are "curating" your leaves. Because we're trying to drive an aesthetic appreciation and "movement" to utilize them for more than just tinting the water a golden brown hue. If you've taken the journey- the leap of faith- with us this far, and realized that we're all about creating unique experiences with botanicals- then you can appreciate that there is a process driving something seemingly as "banal" as leaf selection!
One of our future ambitions is to offer a very carefully curated selection of Catappa from various locales around the world. Don't think there is a difference? Think again. You only need look quickly at our "XL" Catappa from Raja Ampat, Indonesia. These leaves were carefully and painstakingly collected and processed by my dear friend, Jake Adams (Sr. Editor of the wildly popular Reef Builders blog) on a trip to Indonesia some months back. The quality, color, size is immediately apparent. They are far, far different from the other leaves we offer. For an enthusiast- the aquascaper, the creative person who understands what a leaf can really DO to a 'scape- these are like little treasures.
So, yeah- we plan on tightening up..."curating" more carefully, to offer you the most varied, high quality selection of leaves "fit for purpose" for aquascaping. You can buy Catappa leaves from a ton of places on eBay, Amazon, etc., and you'll receive a bag of leaves that's simply been collated and packed. There might be some great specimens in there..then again, there might not be. If you're looking to "tint" your better or Discus tank, sure, they'll work just fine.
If, on the other hand, you're looking for leaves that have been selected by people that understand and appreciate all of their attributes, then you'll want to get your leaves from Tannin Aquatics.
More on this in a future blog...However, I hope that by now I've pounded into your head the fact that all leaves are NOT the same, and that the level of care, curation, and- passion that goes into ours will make a big difference in your next aquascaping project.
And I only touched on Catappa. Don't get me started on Guava!
Stay creative. Stay excited. Stay contemplative.
And Stay Wet.