By REBECCA SLOAN
A rusty iron bed frame, a withered dining room chair, a beat up wringer washing machine -- before you throw these items on the junk pile, take a moment to rethink their artistic value.
These oldies but goodies might be just what you need to liven up your humdrum, ho-hum backyard garden.
Kathie Lutz, of Inglis Greenhouse in Boardman, said the trend toward placing grandma's gadgets in the garden got started on the West Coast and has taken root locally during the past few years.
"You'll see people incorporating old chairs into their gardens, old watering cans or old cultivators. Other people will take an antique potting bench and place a few mossy pots on it. They get ideas from magazines or from driving past other people's yards and seeing similar displays," Lutz said.
"One woman placed an antique wringer washing machine in her herb garden, attached a clothesline to it, and then hung bunches of herbs from the clothesline to dry. People are doing all sorts of creative things," Lutz added.
Focal point: Jan Boardley, of Hermitage, decided an antique iron bed frame would be just the thing to support her climbing pink clematis vine.
"I bought the bed at an antique shop in Chicago and thought it would make a great trellis," Boardley said. "We painted it black and use it as a focal point in the garden."
Boardley's garden also features a fountain she fashioned from an old ceramic jug and several unusual ornaments, including a hand-blown fiberglass manatee purchased in Key West, Fla. and a Buddha statue with a big belly that visitors can "rub for good luck."
Although Boardley doesn't recall where she got her creative inspiration, she said there are plenty of unique garden displays in the area to foster the imagination.
For example, a friend of Boardley's, who lives in Shenango Township, placed an antique church pew in her front yard and then planted ivy and hostas around it.
"At Christmastime she places packages on the church pew," Boardley said.
Not for everyone: Although some people are enchanted by the idea of mixing flowers with tag sale finds to create a whimsical and wonderful garden, others shy away from the concept.
"I think people either like the old look or they really don't like it," Lutz said. "The people who like this look are hungry for nostalgia and are thinking back to what times were like when their grandparents were young."
Old shoes, sinks or wheelbarrows used as planters, an old rake leaning against a garden shed or a faded straw hat hanging on a picket fence are some other nostalgic notions Lutz has noticed popping up in local gardens.
Although Lutz thinks some of the ideas are innovative and fun, she said sometimes people can go too far and create a garden that is downright tacky.
"I've seen people take old toilet bowls, fill them with dirt, and plant flowers in them. That's just tacky," Lutz said.
Tacky to some, perhaps, but to others, a work of art.
Appropriate: Boardley knows of a plumber who has a toilet bowl planter in his front yard.
"Since he is a plumber, it makes the idea kind of cute," Boardley said.
"Otherwise, I'd probably say it's tacky."