Garden Gnomes, Anyone?

Garden Gnome, anyone?

This year the Royal Horticultural Society in the UK declared that the banned garden gnome was now allowed to be part of the Chelsea Flower Show.

Tackiness be damned! Garden gnomes for all! 

This may seem to be a funny little discussion but it actually has great portent.  Garden gnomes, those funny little white-bearded creatures, are associated in England with the landscapes of the not-so-rich and the unfamous.  According to English gardening maven, Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen, “Gnomes are very symbolic in English gardens as an anti-class statement."

Born to be Wild Gnome

Anti-class? anti- posh? These happy little garden sprites (or small and creepy men, depending on your point of view) are reminders that we are all free to fashion our gardens, our little bits of heaven, in our own way.  I remember, growing up in Brooklyn, walking by many a 'bathtub Mary' in the chainlink bordered front yards of those lucky enough to have a front yard.  They would take a cast iron bathtub  (tossed out in favor of newer, lighter ones) and set it vertically in the ground to act as a niche for a statue of Mother Mary. The genesis of re-purposing, I am sure.

But back to gnomes, the Chelsea Flower show allowing gnomes is akin to baseball allowing wiffleballs in their games. People were aghast. Gnomes, which are called “brightly colored mythical creatures” in the flower show handbook, are opposite of the traditional Chelsea approach. They have been lumped for years with balloons, flags, and “feather flags,” and other banned items as detractors from the plant and garden display.  

So why the switch? Because people have become 'gnome fanatics'!  Solus, a gardening related products company has sold 200,000 of their Woodland Wilf line  since 2009. People put them in their front yard, their backyard, lying on a leaf, under some trees, in the lawn. Some people hide gnomes in their friends' gardens as a game: 'find the gnome'

Even Elton John got into the act...As part of its new gnome-friendly policy, the horticultural society asked a group of celebrities to decorate some gnomes.  Guess what the Elton John gnome looks like?    'Gnomism' lives on.


  1. The whole garden gnome issue got lots of press before this year's Chelsea Flower Show. I was at the Chelsea FLower SHow this year (two days in a row) I was looking forward to seeing all the gnomes but, despite my looking, I saw only one. I don't know where they were hiding.
    Growing up, our next door neighbors had gnomes. I loved them as a child (I grew up in Queens, and saw my fair share of bathtub Madonnas and garden gnomes). I never see them in gardens now (I live in Massachusetts), although I still see Madonnas. I can't say I miss them. They were a part of childhood. The gnomes at Chelsea this year were far different from the gnomes I knew as a child, Making an expensive statement with gnomes took the fun out of them for me.

    1. I agree..the gnomes are disappearing. Maybe they've moved to the expensive neighborhoods. See any flamingoes lately? I must admit when I was younger I made sure to place one in my woodland garden...

  2. Garden gnomes and other lawn ornaments are part of popular culture. As such, their design and placement is bound to change with society. That being said, there does not seem to be much room for "Kitsch" in today's overly manicured, and color coordinated suburban landscapes.

  3. too funny im alwyas lookin for a cool gnome


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