A serene garden just steps away from a busy road

Antiques and colorful flowers add charm and grab the attention of passerby.

John Grap/The Enquirer/AP
Linda Kalemkiewicz spends hours sitting in her garden in Battle Creek, Mich.
John Grap/The Enquirer/AP
A wind chime in Linda Kalemkiewicz's Battle Creek, Mich., garden.

Wearing a pink, wide-brimmed hat while shading herself beneath a metal gazebo, Linda Kalemkiewicz sits in her front yard on a wicker couch, surrounded by a self-created jungle of singing birds, babbling water, and colorful plants.

"I don't even stay indoors," she says. "If you look at my house, it's a disaster place because I'm always out here."

Her house is only a few dozen yards from Battle Creek's Country Club Boulevard, but it's hardly noticeable from the road. The five trees that tower above the house and the plants that grow around them are the true attention-grabbers.

Ms. Kalemkiewicz has transformed her entire yard into a garden featuring every imaginable floral shape, size, and color.

The flowers cover three-fourths of her front lawn and are only abetted by the gazebo, a homemade fountain, and a rounded portion of lawn that serves as a path.

Rows of crowded yellow blooms, bushels of purple eye-catchers, and tall orange stalks of star-shaped petals draw the eye across the yard.

Stone paths weave throughout the jungle of sights and aromas that Kalemkiewicz considers her true home.

"Being with nature, I think, lets your stress out," she says.

The rim of her straw hat rustles in the breeze as she ambles through the shrubs. She stops at a trickling rock fountain that contains oversized goldfish. Kalemkiewicz spends almost as much time in the garden as the fish do.

"Usually I'm here ... until when the sun goes down," she says.

Kalemkiewicz's backyard is even more colorful than the front. It features three gazebos, three flower-covered archways and several fountains, both manufactured and homemade.

The jungle of tall and short flowers is a playpen for birds, wildlife, and her six cats.

"When my kids were little, they used to just crawl around and eat dirt," she says.

As they got older, though, their attitudes changed.

"When they were little, it was so funny," Kalemkiewicz says. "They were too embarrassed to get off the school bus at their stop. They would just get off somewhere else so no one would know they lived here."

They also were embarrassed by Kalemkiewicz's choice of accessories in the backyard. But her garden still features angels, antiques, and other accessories that she has spray-painted royal purple.

Kalemkiewicz's garden did not always hold so much drama.

After she moved to Battle Creek from the Philippines 24 years ago, she tried to plant a single rosebush.

"I didn't know you have seasons, so I'm planting roses under the tree, and they die. Then they died in the winter," she says.

Now she saunters about her vast garden, pruning and prodding, unable to set down her gardening scissors long enough to finish a sentence.

"It's kinda like I design things," she says. "It's really like painting. I'm not kidding. I can't paint, but I paint my flowers."

Editor’s note: For more on gardening, see the Monitor’s main gardening page. Our blog archive. Our RSS feed.

You may also want to visit Gardening With the Monitor on Flickr. If you join the group (it’s free), you can upload your garden photos — and possibly win a prize. Deadline is Aug. 11. Join the discussions and get answers to your gardening questions.

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