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Welcome to A Writer’s Garden where writers who are gardeners or just love gardens will be sharing their garden and flower stories, as well as a bit about their writing gardens—aka their books.

Today’s guest is Claire Gem. She’ll be talking about her grapevines.


Fruit of the Vine

By Claire Gem

At times my Italian heritage tells on me. I’ll admit it—I love wine. To Italians, wine is an integral part of our history, our tradition, and our culture. The country is one of the world’s leading producers of the stuff, so it’s not surprising that a great percentage of Italy’s soil is cultivated with grapevines.

But these climbing plants can do more than produce grapes.

When I decided to enclose our side yard for some seclusion from our somewhat busy street, my choice of fencing material surprised my husband.

“It will take years before the vines grow thick enough!” he said. “Why not just put up some privacy fence?”

“I want a natural fence. It will be worth the wait. This will be beautiful. And the vines will grow fast! Just you wait and see.”

Patiently, he helped me construct the L-shaped, lateral trellis, which consisted of four, 4 x 4 posts set in concrete, with three strands of heavy duty wire strung between. The six-foot height would provide the perfect amount of screen I was looking for.

Then I went online and ordered my vines: three varieties—red, and two kinds of white—simply because I couldn’t make up my mind. In the photos on the nursery website, the vines were thick and lush, the leaves bigger than my outspread hand, the grape clusters glistening with morning dew.

What I got in the mail two weeks later were three brown sticks, each about two feet long.

My son laughed at me as I carefully followed the planting instructions accompanying my dead-looking twigs.

“I think you got ripped off, Mom,” he chided. “Those things will never grow.”

But oh, how they did. By the end of the first summer, the vines had all but obscured the strands of wire between the posts. The following year, they grew furiously, crisscrossing and linking into an intricately woven tapestry.

In 2016, after two short years, the vines had not only cloaked the trellis we built, but were quickly threatening to take over the side of our house. This was the first year they yielded fruit—about a half-dozen clusters of tiny, tart grapes. But my goal had been accomplished: when the fat leaf buds opened into giant green fans, our little side yard was completely invisible from the street.

Last fall, I decided I wanted a real arbor—one that would allow the vines to continue spreading without consuming our home’s siding in the process. Also, I thought it would be nice to have some overhead shade during the heat of the day. Fortunately, with the help of a handyman neighbor and an indulgent husband, I now have my summer paradise.

In warm weather, we enjoy the beauty and seclusion of our secret garden. Birds flock to our space, helping themselves to some of the grapes when they visit. Even in winter, the vines are beautiful. The twisted, silvery bones sparkle with an icy mantle, and provide a wonderful backdrop for my lighted family of wire deer sculptures. They twinkle when draped with colored lights.

Now, it’s high summer. As I sit enjoying a glass of (what else?) crisp Pinot Grigio in the cool of the evening, I consider . . . There are so many grapes this year, why don’t I try my hand at making some homemade wine?

Wouldn’t my Italian daddy be proud?


About the Writer/Gardener

Claire Gem is a multi-published, award-winning author of six titles in the genres of contemporary romance, supernatural suspense, and women’s fiction. She also writes Author Resource guide books and presents seminars on writing craft and marketing.

Creating cross-genre fiction she calls “supernatural suspense,” Claire loves exploring the paranormal and the unexplained, and holds a certificate in Parapsychology from the Rhine Research Center of Duke University. Her latest release, Civil Hearts, is set in an abandoned antebellum home in rural Alabama, which is, of course, haunted.

A New York native, Claire has lived in five of the United States and held a variety of jobs, from waitress to bridal designer to research technician—but loves being an author best. She and her happily-ever-after hero, her husband of 39 years, now live in central Massachusetts.

You can connect with Claire at her Website:

Civil Hearts

by Claire Gem

He’s a sexy Southern gentleman–with epilepsy. She’s a widow scarred from her husband’s brain cancer. A Confederate soldier haunts her new home–and she’s a Yankee. Manhattan web designer Liv Larson yearns for big change. She has no family, and after all, she can work from anywhere. Why not throw a dart at the map? She heads out of the big city for the rural South and falls in love as soon as she arrives–with the Belle Bride, an abandoned antebellum mansion. Heath Barrow loves his country life, managing his antiques store in sleepy Camellia, Alabama. But he’s lonely, and his condition–epilepsy–makes life uncertain. It’s already cost him a marriage. A new medication and the new girl in town have his heart hopeful again. Sparks fly between them, but the first seizure Liv witnesses sends her into a tailspin. She watched her husband die that way . . . To make matters worse, Liv discovers she’s not living alone. Her challenge? Dealing with a Confederate soldier who clearly resents his Yankee roommate–even though he’s been dead for almost a hundred and fifty years.

WARNING TO READERS OF SWEET ROMANCE. Civil Hearts contains open door love scenes and strong language.