The Bronx Zoo in December

A Rhino Statue at The Bronx Zoo in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer

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

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: 

A yawning male lion at The Bronx Zoo in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer

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

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

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

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

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 ♥

Opus 40 Sculpture Park

Opus 40 Sculpture Park in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer

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. (

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All Things Maple

Collection Tubes into Holding Tank in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer

Collection Tubes into Holding Tank (photo credit: Kathy Diemer)

Those in the Northeastern U.S. during February and March may be wondering: “What are those tubes winding through the woods from tree to tree?”  As part of a quintessential New England tradition, the tubes are collecting sap from maple trees to create a series of treats; such as maple syrup, maple candy and maple cream.  From February through March, if temperatures cooperate (freezing nights, warmer days), the clear liquid will flow freely, providing an ample supply for all of our local sugarmakers.  Our native sugar maple, Acer saccharum, is the tree of choice in New England, and they must have adequate girth (11 inch diameter, approximately a 40 year old tree) to be suitable for collecting.  Because the opportunity to collect sap is such a short period, efficiency is the key to receiving a good quantity of this precious liquid. [Read more…]

New York Botanical Garden

Japanese Maple at NYBG in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer

Japanese Maple (photo credit: Kathy Diemer)

Black Friday, and the weeks before, are often spent indoors shopping for bargains . . . but I have a better idea! November is a month that can grace us with unseasonably mild temperatures and crisp blue skies; in other words, perfect conditions for strolling through a garden.  So, for the folks at the mall waiting in line for a new flat screen: count me out! Instead, color me green and blue, ’cause this girl’s headed for the New York Botanical Garden . . . [Read more…]

Harkness Memorial State Park

The mansion roof peeks from above the treetops in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer

The mansion roof peeks from above the treetops (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

In celebration of our anniversary, my husband, Ged, and I visited a gorgeous park overlooking the ocean in Waterford, Connecticut. Well worth the visit, my post will hardly be able to cover all the wonderful aspects worthy of mention on this beautiful estate. Between the stands of ancient beeches, maples and chestnuts, the expansive and lushly planted grounds and the breathtaking views, I hardly know where to start. Did I mention the mansion was being prepared for a wedding that day . . . [Read more…]


Beauty & Sound of Water In A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer

Water features abound at Innisfree (photo: Kathy Diemer)

Imagine a garden designed to delight us visually and sensually, as well as addressing the often neglected sense of sound.  Using a story high fountain, rambling brooks tumbling over carefully placed stones and a gorgeous forty acre lake; the sound of water soothes visitors, while the reflective surfaces incorporate the sky and surrounding hillside into this breathtaking atmosphere.  [Read more…]

Connecticut Flower & Garden Show 2015

Sir Peacock at CT Garden Show in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer

Sir Peacock greets everyone at the entryway (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

There’s only one way to fight a seemingly endless winter; enlist some serious flower power! In my neck of the woods this entailed taking a much needed break from the snow and frigid temps to attend the 34th annual Connecticut Flower & Garden Show, just an hour away at the Connecticut Convention Center in Hartford. If you didn’t have a chance to visit, there are other flower shows across the east coast such as Vermont Flower Show from February 27 through March 1, the Boston Flower and Garden Show from March 11 through 15, and the oldest, Philadelphia Flower Show, which premiered in 1829 and will be open from February 28 through March 8. (Please check your area for other local listings). [Read more…]

Storm King

Overlooking the South Fields in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer

Overlooking the South Fields (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

I was never all that interested in modern art; growing up in a rock ‘n roll and (well done) meat and potatoes environment will do that to you. Admittedly, I didn’t understand modernistic techniques either. All that stark white and sharp edges was too much for my curvy, colorful mind to comprehend. That is, until I went to Storm King Art Center, where towering chunks of metal unite peacefully amongst majestic trees and rolling pastures. The simplicity of natural meadows somehow balances these complex structures so they become one with their surroundings. At Storm King I discovered that gardeners are not so different from artists, we simply use a different medium to create our masterpieces. [Read more…]

Wethersfield Garden

The view from Wethersfield Garden in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer

Picture yourself sitting here! (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

I’ve visited some wonderful gardens this year; a few with magnificent ocean or river views, others with incredible landscapes flush with foliage and flowers.  And just when I thought the season was winding down, I found one more on my “must see” list, whose last open day (other than special events) was September 28.  As karma would have it, I happened to look up Wethersfield Garden that very morning, and was able to squeeze in by the skin of my teeth!  Lady Luck continued to have my back, providing crystal clear skies and toasty temperatures, as I drove along the quiet dirt road that wound its way to this new adventure. And what an unexpected, but thrilling surprise awaited me at the top of this remote mountain in Amenia, N.Y.; a property offering a treasure trove of gardens tucked in amongst beautifully manicured grounds, all wrapped in the most spectacular vistas imaginable. Believe me when I say, you won’t know which way to look first . . .

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The Brooklyn Bridge

The Brooklyn Bridge under construction in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer

The Brooklyn Bridge, originally called the East River Bridge, under construction.

When the Brooklyn Bridge, originally called the East River Bridge, opened to the public on May 24,1883, it was the longest suspension bridge in the world. On its first day, approximately 1,800 vehicles and 150,000 people crossed the 1.1 mile span between Manhattan and Brooklyn, with Emily Warren Roebling (wife of Washington Roebling) as the first to ride over the completed bridge. Today the Brooklyn Bridge’s pedestrian walkway, a wooden boardwalk 11 feet above the lanes traveled by automobiles, caters to more than 4,000 pedestrians and 3,000 cyclists each day, while over 150,000 cars whiz by below. And though there were serious doubts as to the stability of this bridge (probably because so many other bridges had collapsed prior to its construction), the Brooklyn Bridge has remained a dependable means of crossing the East River, and was designated as a National Historic & Civil Engineering Landmark in 1972. [Read more…]

A Garden for All