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Flowers, veggies and Wilbur: Even the trees have character in Marcie Kalenda’s Cloquet garden

Marcie Kalenda sits in her shade garden patio surrounded by yard art pieces. The yard looks like a small park, complete with shade gardens under trees in the front yard and a quiet little patio surrounded by pink petunias. (Jamie Lund / Forum News Service)1 / 4
“Wilbur,” a face on a tree created by neighbor Cookie Jaakola, guards Marcie Kolenda’s front yard in Cloquet. (Jamie Lund / Forum News Service)2 / 4
Beautiful pink begonias sparkle with rain drops in a basket set at the end of a row of hostas in Marcie Kalenda's yard. The side of the house had been grass when Kalendra moved in 20 years ago. (Jamie Lund / Forum News Service)3 / 4
Marcie Kalenda’s vegetable garden features asparagus, tomatoes, beans, cucumbers, lettuce, kohlrabi and rhubarb. (Jamie Lund / Forum News Service)4 / 4

CLOQUET, Minn. — Rows of lilies, daisies and pansies wave in the breeze and pink roses climb over a white arbor, creating an English cottage garden look at Marcie Kalenda's home. Globe thistle, obedient plant and bleeding hearts are sprinkled here and there, adding textures and shapes. A plume-like white goat's beard reaches over the fence toward passersby on the sidewalk.

While Kalenda has been living in her Cloquet house for 20 years, the garden began as a way to keep her busy after retirement.

"I have annuals, biennials and perennials," Kalenda said.

The yard looks like a small park, complete with shade gardens under trees in the front yard and a quiet little patio surrounded by pink petunias and several pieces of yard art, some of it created by Kalenda. A fountain hums in the background, blending into a mini symphony with several wind chimes strewn throughout the gardens. The patio is her favorite part of the space.

Neat rows of vegetables in the backyard were started by the previous owner and improved on by Kalenda. Tall feathery asparagus has gone to seed, several rows of a variety of tomatoes and beans, cucumbers, lettuce, kohlrabi and rhubarb all grow with the help of raised rows and a healthy dose of composted rich, black soil. One vegetable not in the garden is beets.

"The only time I have had a problem with deer is with beets," Kalenda said. "When the beets were just ready to be harvested and made into beet pickles, the deer would come pull them all up and eat the bottoms and tops."

Kalenda enjoys eating some of the vegetables fresh from the garden; others she bakes and shares with friends and neighbors.

Kalenda splurged and bought a compost tumbler several years ago, she said.

She continually adds leaves and old plants to the barrel and turns it with a hand crank every so often until the plant material decays and the moist dirt is added back into the garden in the fall to start the process over again.

Kalenda added a fence to keep critters from eating the fruits of her labor, but she noticed a few plants have been getting nibbled on. She believes baby rabbits are squeezing through the fence gate (Peter Rabbit style) until they grow too big to fit.

Kalenda enjoys creating her own garden art. She buys items from the dollar store and makes solar lamps with glass vases and dishes. She also uses colorful glass made for the bottom of aquariums to cover old bowling balls and repurposes them into gazing globes.

Other pieces of garden art are made by neighbor Cookie Jaakola, including Wilbur — a face on a tree in Kalenda's front yard that keeps an eye on everything. Wilbur's face blends so well, it looks like it could have grown there.

"She (Jaakola) is very good. She made the frogs and the turtle as well as Wilbur, and she gifts me with them," Kalenda said. "And of course, I love them."

Kalenda admits there is no rhyme or reason to her gardens. There are no plans. If she sees an empty spot, she fills it.

Her favorite color is pink, and it shows from the pink roses to the deep magenta clematis, dancing dianthus, coral-colored begonias in a cement basket and the delicate bleeding hearts.

The gardens are well-manicured with a plastic edging to keep the brown mulch in and brick pavers to outline the garden. Kalenda spent many hours clearing the grass away from the pavers to leave a neat dirt moat of about 4 inches between the grass and pavers.

"I got down on my hands and knees and dug it out with a dandelion weeder," Kalenda said.

She likes how much easier it is to trim around the garden without grass growing into the brick pavers.

Although Kalenda currently has no plans to expand her gardens, she muses that there may be a little room for a hosta or two in the back.

"I think this is all I need," she said. "I don't think there's room for another garden."