Freeze Frame

This swan was a ham in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer https://agardenforall.com

This swan was a ham and it took a lot of attempts to catch it on film (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

While listening to the radio on my drive in to work, the commentators were discussing photography, explaining that camera use has diminished over the last few decades, replaced by cell phones.  They questioned if photo taking might infringe on our enjoyment of “the moment”, making us unable to truly experience each situation because we’re too busy focusing (literally and figuratively) on taking pictures.  Hmmmm . . .  While in agreement that cameras have been phased out, there are still those of us that like to frame our pictures through a lens, and get excited when we capture a special image.  For me, cell phones just don’t cut it, though I realize they have incredible potential for those that prefer to use them. [Read more…]

The Bronx Zoo in December

A Rhino Statue at The Bronx Zoo in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer https://agardenforall.com

A festive Rhino Statue greets you at The Bronx Zoo (Photo by: Kathy Diemer)

I turned sixty this month, for me a monumental date that had me pondering ways to celebrate such a special day. After all, it’s December in New England. Certainly not the best time for outdoor activities of interest to a passionate gardener like myself. After some thought, I decided that if I couldn’t see dazzling plants and flowers I’d settle for the next best thing; animals! And the nearest location chock-full of all sorts of critters is the Bronx Zoo, less than two hours away in Bronx, N.Y. 

A handsome gorilla poses for me at The Bronx Zoo in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer https://agardenforall.com

A handsome gorilla poses for me (Photo by: Kathy Diemer)

One of the largest zoos in the United States, the Bronx Zoo was created when the City of New York allotted 250 acres of the Bronx Park to the New York Zoological Society with the express purpose of creating a park to preserve animals and promote zoology. Within a year, the New York Zoological Park (now known as the Bronx Zoo) opened its doors to the public on November 8, 1899, featuring 843 animals in 22 exhibits. The present day Bronx Zoo encompasses 265 acres, houses more than 4,000 animals of 650 species, many that are endangered or threatened, and is visited by over 2.15 million people each year.  (To find out more about the Bronx Zoo and their extensive conservation efforts, visit: www.bronxzoo.com) 

A yawning male lion at The Bronx Zoo in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer https://agardenforall.com

A majestic male lion smiles for the camera (Photo by: Kathy Diemer)

My husband, Ged, and I arrived at the Bronx River Gate at 10:30, bundled in warm jackets and toting cameras. The first thing I noticed was the overall beauty of the landscape and the openness of the exhibits, providing many different view points for the animals and complementary backdrops for photographing. The second thing I noticed was people, or should I say, lack there of. One of the best reasons to visit the Bronx Zoo off-season is the opportunity to observe many of the animals without being crowded out. And noise? Other than traffic surrounding the park and an occasional group of school children, the zoo was peacefully quiet. Throughout the day, we often felt as if we had the park to ourselves.

A grizzly bear observes us from up high in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer https://agardenforall.com

A grizzly bear observes us from up high (Photo by: Kathy Diemer)

Another benefit to visiting the Bronx Zoo in winter is the animals themselves. They are simply more relaxed without all the noise and hubbub of oversized crowds. Almost every animal we visited was close enough to be easily observed, a few even came out of hiding when we arrived. Remaining quiet, silencing our mind and projecting love and respect resulted in some of the most incredible animal interactions imaginable. A gorilla strolled down from the mountain and sat down right in front of me, posing for his picture. A grizzly bear gazed down from high atop a boulder and proceeded to lay down, all while continuing to watch us. The lions that ignored the small group viewing them, turned and acknowledged us almost upon our arrival. Within minutes they both rose, stretched and yawned, allowing us to admire their magnificent profiles. Tigers came out from hiding and looked right at me as I took picture after picture. Even the rhinos wanted to come closer, one reaching between the fence strands with its giant horn. 

A bison mother nurses her baby in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer https://agardenforall.com

A bison mother peacefully nurses her baby (Photo by: Kathy Diemer)

Bison mothers peacefully nursed their young. Eagles and owls were regally perched, while flamingos splashed nearby. Sea lions swam playfully together in their pool and penguins strolled about the aviary with Inca terns flying overhead. Hyenas basked in the winter sun and giraffes grazed leisurely in the pasture next-door. Antelope leapt and frolicked about while the neighboring baboon family snuggled together and groomed each other. A curiously striped Okapi licked its side with a long black tongue and red pandas snoozed on branches up high. Peacocks meandered down pathways or sat on railings, casually observing passersby. It was all so magical.

A Crocodile lounges in a viewing tank at The Bronx Zoo in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer https://agardenforall.com

A lounging Crocodile is easily viewed in its glass tank (Photo by: Kathy Diemer)

Then we explored the numerous indoor exhibits, many with open rooms so the birds could fly about freely. There were hundreds of brilliantly colored birds in the trees with reptiles draped over nearby branches looking down on the crocodiles and alligators swimming below. Giant glass tanks provided such a clear view you actually felt you were underwater with the various aquatic life. Each section was filled with plants and trees appropriate for the setting; some very tropical and others similar to our own backyard, with evergreens and fruiting shrubs. The thoughtful designs throughout the property helped to inspire a feeling of place, for that brief moment you actually felt as if you were in a tropical rainforest or on an African plain. 

Architecturally ornate buildings are part of The Bronx Zoo experience in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer https://agardenforall.com

Architecturally ornate buildings are part of The Bronx Zoo experience (Photo by: Kathy Diemer)

Worthy of the most honorable mention are the various buildings and structures throughout the property whose architectural elements were truly exquisite. The hand carved eagles, lions and panthers remind us of an era when such skills were highly revered and remain a testament to the passion and dedication of the early planners and developers of this incredible park. Looking back at all we experienced that day, I realize that even though it was a month without colorful foliage or scintillating plants in bloom, the naturalistic indoor settings, captivating outdoor landscaping and awe-inspiring architecture were equally thrilling. Indeed, visiting the Bronx Zoo in December was the most wonderful way to spend my 60th birthday ♥

Pucker Up for Dogwoods

Cornus stolonifera Pucker Up in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer https://agardenforall.com

Colorful Cornus stolonifera ‘Pucker Up’ (Photo by: Kathy Diemer)

I’ve been a fan of shrubs for decades, they add architecture and color to the year round garden while helping keep maintenance to a minimum. Many shrubs offer additional benefits of vibrant foliage, beautiful flowers and luscious fruit. And a few offer extraordinary attributes wrapped up in a petite package, minus the bow. One such shrub is the North American native, Cornus stolonifera ‘Neil Z,’ commonly known as the red-twig dogwood ‘Pucker Up.’     [Read more…]

Opus 40 Sculpture Park

Opus 40 Sculpture Park in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer https://agardenforall.com

Entrance to Opus 40 Sculpture Park (Photo by: Kathy Diemer)

In this one life that we have, it is important to do the things that feed our soul. To make time and take time to spend with those you love and do the things that make you feel happy. The things where time simply slips away because you are so entranced with what you are doing or seeing or experiencing. There are many things that feed my soul, from long quiet walks in the woods to having lunch with a friend or playing with my grand daughters. This year I even went up in a hot air ballon for the first time! But one of my very favorite soul feeders is visiting new places where I can explore, with camera in hand, for hours on end. This year, I found another great place to visit, a sculpture park called Opus 40. (www.opus40.org)

[Read more…]

Creating Your Special Garden

First Garden in 2005 in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer https://agardenforall.com

The first garden in 2005 (Photo by: Kathy Diemer)

There is something special about a garden created by its owner, the passion and love are planted in the soil along with each plant. It’s the sweat equity factor. When a person decides to dig up a spot of land and plant something solely for the purpose of creating beauty, it is the selfless act of love paired with a desire to share and learn that truly speaks to my heart.

When we moved to our country property almost 30 years ago, we had a yard of over 2 acres surrounded by open cow pastures. Other than some multiflora rose and piles of old tires and tractor parts from its former farming years, I had an open palette to work with. I dug in within months.   [Read more…]

Moon Flower Aspirations

Moon Flower at dawn in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer https://agardenforall.com

Moon Flower at dawn (Photo by: Kathy Diemer)

You have to be brave to try to grow a Moon Flower (Ipomoea alba) in the cold climate of New England. A risk taker. A gambler. Or, you might be the eternal optimist and believe in the impossible. Whichever you are, when you plant a moon flower north of the Mason-Dixon line, there is a pretty good chance that you won’t see a blossom before frost strikes. Not even one. So why would a Northwestern Connecticut gardener continue to try? Perhaps I am a bit of both: the eternal optimist and a risk taker. After all, what true hands-in-the-dirt gardener doesn’t take a few risks? But the reason I keep trying … I once had success, in fact not so long ago my patio was enveloped in fragrant moon flower blossoms (Visit moon flower post from 2012: Moon Flower ). And so my friends, I continue to strive to reach some semblance of that one time in the not too distant past when I glimpsed a little part of heaven on earth … [Read more…]

Garden Cat

Tommy & Prudence Dozing in A Garden For All by kathy Diemer https://agardenforall.com

Tommy & Prudence Dozing (photo credit: Kathy Diemer)

If we’re really lucky, during our lifetime we’ll have a few very special friends.  Friends that are there through thick and thin, good times and bad, richer or poorer.  One of my best friends came in the form of a four legged orange tabby, and from the day he came into my life it has been a blessing to have known him.  Abandoned at my sister’s farm when he was only a kitten, from the second I saw his adorable face; golden eyes staring up in wonder and ears I thought he’d never grow into, I was a goner.  He simply had to come home with me.  [Read more…]

The Invincible Fig

Fig Tree in container in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer https://agardenforall.com

Fig Tree growing in a container (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

Back in 2012, I posted an article about figs, titled “Just Figs.” It was a story of my love at first sight experiences with a fig tree (Ficus carica), and the learning curves growing a zone 7-11 tree in a much colder zone, (click here to read: Just Figs ). I found that when the cold weather arrived, a well lit, insulated garage provided the perfect spot to overwinter a non-hardy fig tree . . . and several years later, that same spot in the garage served as a protective shelter from the raging fire that consumed our entire home in January of 2015.

The Fire's Destruction in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer https://agardenforall.com

What was left after the fire (Photo: Kathy Diemer)

When the fire was finally extinguished, amongst the collapsed structure and rubble stood a container with a few burnt stems protruding from it. Though we didn’t have much hope that bitterly cold day, we loaded the charred remnants of the fig tree into a trailer and drove it to our friend’s heated garage. In all the chaos that followed; finding a temporary home, food, clothes and caring for our remaining pets, we forgot all about the fig tree. [Read more…]

Enchanting Hummingbirds

A Hummingbird visits the globe thistle in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer https://agardenforall.com

A Hummingbird visits the globe thistle (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been mesmerized by hummingbirds. From their ability to fly almost at the speed of light in one moment and perch quietly on a limb the next, to their brilliantly colored bodies illuminated by the sunlight in a prism of shades, from emerald green to royal blue and ruby red. (Impossible to truly capture on film, although I continue to try). Yes, there is something special about hummingbirds – the tiniest of birds, yet in many ways the most amazing. Almost otherworldly or mystical, they are indeed magical.

Named for the humming sound produced by their fast moving wings (up to 80 times per second), some believe that hummingbirds float free of time, carrying hopes for love, joy, beauty and limitless opportunities. Native Americans thought of hummingbirds as sacred and associated them with beauty, harmony, industriousness and integrity. Hummingbirds were often portrayed as healers or spirit beings that helped people in need. But for most of us, hummingbirds are enchanted beings that flit about our yards bringing a sense of wonder whenever they pass by. [Read more…]

Savory Sweetgum

Liquidambar Variegata's medley of colors in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer https://agardenforall.com

Liquidambar Variegata’s medley of foliage colors (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

Once upon a time there was a girl that absolutely adored all things multicolored.  She loved calico cats and tie dye shirts, rainbows and zebra prints.  So, it was a natural transition for this girl to grow into a gardener with the same relish for multicolored foliage.  Luckily, she was born in a century brimming with innovative plant introductions, such as echinacea in unheard of shades like fluorescent orange and eye-popping pink, and dwarf lilacs that were not only intensely fragrant, but bloomed from spring to fall.  But what intrigued this damsel most of all were the many creations complemented with variegated foliage.  She simply could not get enough.  A few years ago, she stumbled upon a variegated sweetgum, and the rest as they say is history . . . [Read more…]

A Garden for All