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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.

Today’s post closes this year’s season of A Writer’s Garden blog series. I hope you’ve all enjoyed your visits and mini garden parties as you’ve virtually strolled through the gardens of 27 wonderful writers and gardeners. I know I’ve enjoyed the writers’ visits and we’ve all enjoyed sharing our garden joys, trials and surprises with our readers this year.

And speaking of surprises I thought I’d end the season with a few of the garden surprises I got this year—of the creature kind as well as plants.

To get the icky factor over for those gardeners who don’t like insects, I’ll start with them.

 I should have known this would be an unusual garden year when I pulled my garden shoes from their cubby in the laundry room. Thank goodness I looked inside the shoe because nestled on the black shoe liner I spied something brown and stick like. After I tromboned my arm a couple of times, so I could see what lay in the shoe, I discovered a dried out walking stick. Not of the variety one uses to support wobbly legs, either.

Unfortunately I didn’t have the foresight to snap a photo. I wasn’t in garden blog mode so early in the season. For those who haven’t seen a walking stick here’s what they look like.

courtesy of pixabay

The next garden adventure was encountered by my husband. I know I’ve mentioned before that our southern Ohio yard is crawling with lizards. We have a lot of rocks and hardscape and I guess some pet lizard escapee decided our yard would be their home, so now big, little, and every size in between lizards roam over our stone walls and graveled beds. This year, while putting in new gravel beds that will house my above ground veggie pots, my husband found the lizard nest.

courtesy of pixabay

Dozens of tiny lizards scattered when he shoveled up their home, sending him scrambling off the wall. I’m grateful I wasn’t there to see that or I’d probably have jumped five feet off the ground and broken who knows how many bones when I landed.  I don’t mind that they crawl around and eat insects, but I would mind if they crawled over me or into my house. So far they’ve run the opposite direction whenever I’ve approached them,

My next garden insect encounter of the unusual kind came when Hubby and I were working on the patio garden beds. This lovely hornet-like creature kept buzzing us.

courtesy of pixabay

“Giant hornet!” Hubby yelled as it dived bombed him. Hubby’s been stung by hornets in the past and reacted badly. He was ready to quit and retreat to the house.

 Fortunately, I had a previous encounter with this sort of insect one spring. His presence in my flower bed, and the fact that he dive bombed me whenever I went out, kept me inside until I sourced out what the giant hornet-like insect was.

When hubby’s “giant hornet” finally landed on a stone wall I said with confidence, “Not to worry. It’s just a cicada killer. It’s not after you.”

Unlike the aggressive hornet, which the cicada killer resembles, this wasp hunts cicadas, not people. The female, which has the stinger, stings the cicada and puts the paralyzed insect into the nest with her unhatched eggs so they will have something to eat. Although the female of the species has a large stinger, and will sting you if she’s attacked, she is not aggressive like hornets or honey bees and does not have the nest-guarding instinct of those insects. You can walk through areas where cicada killers are active without attracting their attention.  They do have quite a buzz and they look a bit scary, but in general if you leave them alone they leave you alone.

And personally, I rather have a cicada killer roaming in my garden that be bombarded by those ugly cicadas. 

Then one morning as I was walking up the gravel garden path, this crossed my path.

courtesy of pixabay

It wasn’t the first time I’d seen a velvet ant, otherwise known as a cow killer, in the garden, but it was the first time I’d seen two in the garden. A couple of days later we found some ant hill looking piles of dirt in the fresh gravel beds we’d been laying. Knowing I’d seen a cow killer/red velvet ant, I gave hubby some wasp spray to shoot onto the hills. A red velvet ant came scrambling out of each hill. He soaked them as best as he could as they scrabbled away.

Hubby didn’t know what they were, but when he described them to me and I later saw the back end of one sticking from the gravel where it had crawled to die, I knew exactly what it was. There’s reason these fuzzy red and black creatures are called cow killers.  The wingless female has a potent sting. The winged male, however, has no stinger.

The female velvet ants, misnamed because the species are really wasps, dig into the nesting chambers of ground-nesting bees and wasps and lay their eggs on the larvae inside. When the eggs hatch the immature ants eat the larvae. Female cow killers can be found on bare or sandy soil. The winged male, which thankfully I haven’t seen, prefers flowers and plants. This insect is not aggressive, but if you step on it or handle it you will be stung. So beware if you see this insect in your garden.

And now on to the more beautiful, but definitely unwanted surprise in the garden this year—a Passion flower. Not something I’d planted. According to my research, the tropical vine is hardy up to zone 5 and can be invasive in some areas. Hubby presented one to me after he’d pulled a wild  vine growing up my bridal wreath bush.

He got a hurt look on his face when I didn’t appreciate his offering. “You threw it away,” he complained.

“Even a flower that isn’t where you want it can be a weed,” I replied. “Especially this one. It can be invasive. If we don’t get it all now, you’ll be pulling this for years to come.” He grudgingly acknowledged my dismissal on the beautiful flower. After all, he’s the one who has to climb up the hill, dig into the bushes, and uproot the weedy vines.

Later in the season, when the plant grew back on the bush, I gave the giant seed pod to my landscaper when she discovered it upon pulling the last of the vine from the bush this fall. When I showed her, via the internet, what the plant would look like, she said, “Are you sure you don’t want to keep it? It’s such a gorgeous flower.” 

“If I let it grow it will take over the garden, “I replied. “The vine grows over 20 feet and there are lots of seeds in that lemon-sized pod. You take it if you want it, but be warned, it can take over the area where you plant it.”

 She said she’d plant it by her chicken coop. Better in her yard than mine, although I suspect we’ll still be pulling it out of the bushes next year.

Well, that’s my garden surprises for this year.  I want to thank all my writer/gardener friends for joining me this year, and all you readers for following us this garden season. God willing, we’ll all be back again next spring with more garden stories.

In the meantime, remember this: God made rainy days and winter so gardeners could get the housework done.

Happy Gardening and I hope to see you all next year!

About the Writer/Gardener:

Multi-award winning author Catherine Castle loves writing. Before beginning her career as a romance writer she worked part-time as a freelance writer. She has over 600 articles and photographs to her credit, under her real name, in the Christian and secular market. She also lays claim to over 300 internet articles written on a variety of subjects and several hundred poems. In addition to writing she loves reading, traveling, singing, theatre, quilting and gardening. She’s a passionate gardener whose garden won a “Best Hillside Garden” award from the local gardening club. She writes sweet and inspirational romances. You can find her award-winning Soul Mate books The Nun and the Narc and A Groom for Mama, on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Follow her on Twitter @AuthorCCastle, FB or her blog.

This fall and winter don’t forget to check out all the books the writer/gardeners have promoted this season.   Here’s Catherine’s multi-award-winning book The Nun and the Narc available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

The Nun and the Narc

by Catherine Castle

Where novice Sister Margaret Mary goes, trouble follows. When she barges into a drug deal the local Mexican drug lord captures her. To escape she must depend on undercover DEA agent Jed Bond. Jed’s attitude toward her is exasperating, but when she finds herself inexplicable attracted to him he becomes more dangerous than the men who have captured them, because he is making her doubt her decision to take her final vows. Escape back to the nunnery is imperative, but life at the convent, if she can still take her final vows, will never be the same.

Nuns shouldn’t look, talk, act, or kiss like Sister Margaret Mary O’Connor—at least that’s what Jed Bond thinks. She hampers his escape plans with her compulsiveness and compassion and in the process makes Jed question his own beliefs. After years of walling up his emotions in an attempt to become the best agent possible, Sister Margaret is crumbling Jed’s defenses and opening his heart. To lure her away from the church would be unforgivable—to lose her unbearable.

The Nun and the Narc available on Amazon

and Barnes and Noble.