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Home and Gardens

Published on April 26th, 2013 | by The Town Crier


Hurray for the Little People

Finally they’ve cracked it… for the first time in 100 years the Royal (and don’t we know it!) Horticultural Society is relaxing one of it’s rather stuffy Chelsea Flower Show bye-laws which prohibits the use of “brightly coloured mythtical creatures” and allowing Gnomes to officially inhabit the show this year! Hurray I say – I’ve been a closet admirer and sometime collector of the little people for years now and, as far as I’m concerned, they are welcome to free B&B at Chez Jonathan’s anytime they like – provided they aren’t flashing their bits or, dare I say, made of plastic! 

The Germans may have had a chequered history (don’t mention THE WAR!) but, fair dues, they have also been responsible for some socio-cultural blockbusters such as Lager, Mercedes and Bosch electric tools, to name but a few. However, it is debatable whether their greatest gift to the world as we know it was our little Gnome – who was officially ‘born’ to a sculptor by the name of Griebel in 1844.

Since that momentous date, the popularity of garden gnomes has ebbed and flowed. In the sixties and seventies they were a popular decoration for front gardens right across the country, for some reason mainly styled on Snow White’s Seven Dwarfs. I always remember walking to school as a kid through our local estate and seeing whole panoramas from the infamous Disney film, with each Gnome lavishly painted and complementing the equally gaudy but perfectly aligned ranks of bedding plants. It might not have been haute couture garden design, but somehow it felt right and it was certainly better than the wheelless cars raised on milk crates, derelict freezers and stolen shopping trolleys that decorate the same gardens these days!

Unfortunately, nowadays Gnomes are viewed as a measure of bad taste, ranking alongside crazy paving and decking with the more‘serious’ garden aficionados – which is probably why I rebelled all those years ago and decided I’d introduce a few to blow a raspberry in the face of the ‘establishment.’

My first few (yes, one had a fishing rod, one had a barrow and one was happily smoking some fruity shag in his Meerschaum!) cost me quite a few Belgian francs because they were the real deal and had some pedigree – or so the Flemish antique dealer led me to believe. Since then I’ve added a few less well-bred chaps from local junk shops in an effort to maintain a healthy gene pool and to add some youth and vigour to the colony. For someone that enjoys the solitude of gardening it’s actually quite nice to know that you’ve got some company as you toil in your flower beds, but at least this lot aren’t going to ask any difficult questions or steal your tools.

Most of my old guard are now officially geriatric and gently rotting away (or whatever plaster does) amongst the Delphiniums and Peonies – a fitting end for such noble and jolly garden friends. Far better than the ignomious end Basil Fawlty’s Gnome suffered after being ‘inserted’ into his incompetent Irish builder – although there are a lot of Chelsea folk who will regard this as being the best repository for all of them!


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