You’re familiar with the concept—about one foot tall, often male, and quaintly dressed in peasant clothes with a pointy hat. This is the typical garden gnome: protector and nurturer of the garden.
But where did gnomes originate from? How did they manage to appear in so many gardens all around the globe…and become the mascot for a travel and internet based company? Surprisingly, these little garden inhabitants originated in the not so distant past…
In mythology, gnomes were little humanoid creatures that would help take care of gardens during the night. In the mid-1800s, in the German town of Grafenroda, Philp Griebel began producing terra cotta gnomes for gardens.
The idea came from the local fables of the little creatures that would help out gardens at night. Their popularity spread across Europe through the gardening circles, until eventually they reached England and traveled across the pond to the United States.
Not surprisingly, these typically male figures are not without controversy. They became the objects of pranks—which even has its own verb, “gnoming” or occasionally, “gnome hunting”.
Sometimes this is as simple as getting knocked over. A home owner goes out to get his or her newspaper, only to find their little garden creature upside down with their hat stuck in the ground. Other times, the defenseless garden helpers are smashed and broken on the very pavement they help keep watch over.
This violence is typically the work of neighborhood ruffians—kids and teens with too much time on their hands. Many gnomes, however, are the objects of theft.
There are actually several groups that take gnomes from their garden homes and place them “back in the wild”. There are numerous stories of groups of gnomes being found both in public locations and in the countryside.
A group of 18 were reportedly found in a Swedish forest, gathered around a small fire as it was winter. Another group of gnomes, eleven of them taken from various homes, were found dangling beneath a bridge in France, all apparent suicide victims—their motive was to protest gnome enslavement.
Similarly, the “Traveling Gnome*” so familiar to us all was inspired by the prank of taking a gnome from an unsuspecting home, passing it around among friends, then eventually getting it back to the owner with pictures of it and its many adventures. Many images of this can be found in a simple Google image search.
Fortunately, these gnomes often return safely to their respective homes where they once again take up the mantle of protecting and nurturing the garden. Like the “Where’s George?” game in which a dollar bill is stamped with a website, and people who receive it are asked to report where they came into contact with it, “traveling gnome” kits are available for purchase online.
This is a legal way to see how far around the world your own gnome can make it. Despite their love of the land, it seems that the gnomes of today are willing to travel outside their picket fences and see the world. Whether or not their owners are willing to let them is another story.
Five Reasons to Get a Garden Gnome
Well, they have been popular for over a hundred years in Europe, and these little creatures are certainly making a mark in the United States—but are they right for your garden? Here are five reasons for you to get a garden gnome (or two or three) for your garden today!
1) They are never angry
Really, have you ever been in the garden section of your favorite store, at the nursery, or just walking in your neighborhood and thought, “My, that garden gnome looks so upset…” No! That’s because these little woodland creatures are ambassadors of good will! Their only goal in life is to help out your garden!
2) Their only goal in life is to help out your garden!
Don’t ask how they do it. You’ll only be met with silence and a secret little gnome smile. But every night they work their little gnome magic on your plants. Be they vegetables, fruits, flowers, or even cacti, gnomes only want to look adorable and promote the well-being of your garden.
3) Gnomes are adorable!
What, other than a one foot tall man (and that’s including his pointy hat), could roll around in the dirt at night and still manage to look completely at ease and one with nature the next day? That is one of the many secret powers gnomes possess. Whatever their daytime activities, be it fishing, playing with other woodland creatures, or sunbathing on a mossy knoll, their second most important job to caring for your garden is looking great.
4) They have Old World charm and New World attitude
These creatures have been ornaments in gardens all across Europe for over a hundred years. Now, they’ve taken it upon themselves to travel all the way across the pond to your yard—yes, yours! Whether peeking out from under a bush or standing among your roses, these gnomes are here to stay. But don’t imagine that they plan on sticking to their traditional peasant outfits and pastoral charm…
5) There is a gnome for you!
Perhaps you’re not looking for Old World charm. Maybe gnomes pursuing leisurely activities such as fishing, or sitting serenely on bridges, doesn’t interest you. Never fear! These New World gnomes aren’t afraid of diversifying their interests.
Motorcycle maniac? You can find a leather clad, steel toed boot wearing gnome for your lawn. College sports fan? Never fear—there’s a gnome with the same enthusiasm as you.
Whether it’s North Caroline blue or Tennessee orange, you can find a gnome not only wearing your team’s colors, but also your team’s logo. Prefer basketball to football? He’ll even be holding the appropriate athletic equipment.
There you are—five reasons for you to find a home for a gnome in your garden today! With these great incentives, why shouldn’t you?