Mysterious Webs

Spider Web in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer

Beautiful Spider Web (photo credit: Kathy Diemer)

It’s Halloween and homes are decorated with spooky ghosts floating in the trees, gravestones erupting from the lawn and pumpkins with ghoulish grins glowing on the front porch.  And then there are spider webs; big ones that run the length of the porch, smaller ones woven through tree branches and the real ones, complete with spiders, in the corner of the front window. [Read more…]


Note the zig-zag pattern in the web's center in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer

Note the zig-zag pattern in the web’s center (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

They’re not exactly warm and fuzzy (actually some are sort of fuzzy), but spiders are really neat and beneficial creatures if you can overlook their scary appearance.  Although I keep my home relatively clean, if you look up you may spot a spider or two hanging out on the ceiling waiting for something to eat.  And outside, the doors are adorned with multiple webs full of delicacies caught in their sticky snares.

A Garden Spider's massive web in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer

A Garden Spider’s massive web (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

In both garden and yard, I’m always thrilled and intrigued to see the variety of webs and lines carefully wound around leaves and branches.  The work involved for one tiny 1/4 inch arachnid to reach from one limb to another seems daunting and mysterious at the same time.  How do these little Tarzans (and Janes) do it?  Especially when you consider that often the web needs to be respun daily, after a storm or intruder destroys it.  It’s exhausting just thinking about it . . . [Read more…]

The Blue Chatterer

Blue Jays at Feeder in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer

A family of Blue Jays dine together (Photo by: Kathy Diemer)

One of the noisiest and vibrant birds to animate our eastern back yards, many think of the Blue Jay as a nuisance. Yet that title would be doing our little indigo friend an injustice, for though they are a rambunctious sort, Blue Jays are also incredibly intelligent, curious and playful.  They maintain a complex social system with tight family bonds and the growing population of oak trees in our New England forests are due in part to their love of acorns.  [Read more…]

Going Squirrelly

Grey Squirrel on Bridge in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer

Grey Squirrel on wooden bridge over my stream (Photo by: Kathy Diemer)

Winter is the time of year when we fill our bird feeders with all sorts of seeds and nuts, and sit back to watch the variety of birds that flock to our back yards to indulge in the smorgasbord that awaits them. But what is that acrobat hanging upside-down from our feeder with fistfuls of food bulging from his (or her) cheeks? Why it’s none other than the common Eastern gray squirrel, Sciurus carolinensis, a four legged contortionist capable of climbing down trees head first in its quest for food.  [Read more…]

Jiminy Crickets!

Short winged Green Grasshopper in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer

Short winged Green Grasshopper (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

Nothing speaks the end of summer more significantly than the familiar chirping and high pitched songs of our local crickets and grasshoppers.  We may tune it out sometimes, but if we listen during our drive to work, as we stroll about during the day, or even at nightfall while walking the dog, we will hear these beautiful songs of nature.  It’s a medley of sounds blended together, an ebb and flow, creating a soothing melody reminiscent of the background music in a fancy restaurant.  But what exactly is making up this unique chorus?  And how or why do they produce these sounds?  [Read more…]


Eastern Tiger Swallowtail enjoying bottlebrush flowers in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail enjoying bottle-brush flowers (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

Lately I feel like I’m living on a Lepidoptera landing strip, with butterflies dive-bombing me from all directions as they head in to land on a succulent blossom in my yard.  It’s heavenly to watch!  Some fly in pairs, others swoop in alone.  Clusters of yellow Eastern Tiger swallowtails congregate on a mound of bright purple phlox, casually fluttering over to some nearby rudbeckia flower heads.  A female black swallowtail is sipping nectar from the throat of a Casa Blanca lily, while a monarch settles in for a treat on masses of rose colored eupatorium blooms nearby.  This is the reward I get for planting dozens of tempting delicacies in my gardens, priceless indeed! [Read more…]

Leave It To Beavers

Beaver Lodge in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer

Neighborhood Beaver Lodge (photo credit: Kathy Diemer)

Just footsteps from my door is a beaver dam surrounded by a beautiful wetland.  I walk by it almost every day, but as yet have been unable to spot the reclusive residents that live in One Beaver Place.  And that is part of the mystery of beaver lodges for me; all the excitement is taking place under the cover of mud and branches.  As a lover of all creatures, I’d like to think that this small wetland created by my flat tailed friends is a beneficial part of our neighborhood.  So, I decided to do some research and find out more about these elusive critters . . . [Read more…]

Mourning Doves

Mourning Doves Hanging Out in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer

Mourning Doves Hanging Out in Metasequoia (photo credit: Kathy Diemer)

The Mourning Dove, (Zenaida macroura), is one of my favorite visitors to the garden.  The genus name Zenaida comes from Princess Zénaide Charlotte Julie Bonaparte, the wife of French zoologist Charles Bonaparte (isn’t that romantic), and mourning was derived from what some consider its sorrowful song.  Mourning Doves don’t migrate, so I’m fortunate to enjoy their company throughout the year.  It’s not uncommon to have dozens of doves at my feeder, with many perched close by in the surrounding trees as well.  Sometimes mistaken for the similar looking Turtle Dove (the difference is a partial black ring at the nape), this cocoa brownish-grey bird radiates a calming, peaceful aura wherever it lands.  And, its voice is a soothing, (not sad to me) gently repetitive cooing sound, in some ways similar to an owl’s “who, who, who”, but with different pitches of tone.  Mourning Doves also make a curious whistling sound during flight, which you’ve probably heard before, but didn’t realize the source. [Read more…]

Praying Mantis

Praying Mantis peeking out from foliage in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer

Praying Mantis peeking out from foliage (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

After a light rain one evening, I decided to trek outside and do some clean up and pruning in the gardens.  I was cutting some stray branches of cottoneaster and variegated forsythia when I noticed a tiny triangular shaped head peak out from the foliage.  Lo and behold, lounging on one of the forsythia branches was a praying mantis!  I hadn’t seen one in many years, and dropping my pruners I ran for my camera.  Luckily, he (or she) was still hanging out and remained quite patient as I tried to get some pictures without touching or disturbing this unusual insect. Having only seen a praying mantis a few times in my life, I felt so lucky to have an opportunity to view it up close and personal. [Read more…]

Precious Pollinators

Bees & butterflies are attracted to Milkweed's blossoms in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer

Bees & butterflies are attracted to Milkweed’s blossoms (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

Many of us are hearing about efforts to save our pollinators; primarily bees, but also including butterflies, moths, even bats and hummingbirds. So, what’s all the hubbub about and why does it matter anyway? For starters, without pollinators most of our flowering plants could not reproduce, and since over one third of our fruit and vegetable crops depend on pollinators for production, it’s easy to see how important their services are to our livelihood. Consider that honey bees pollinate approximately $15 billion worth of U.S. crops each year (in addition to what other native bees and critters do), and that 75% of ALL flowers are pollinated by insects and birds, and you’ll have an idea of just how valuable pollinators are to our existence. [Read more…]