Garden Gnomes – A Gardener’s Guide

Garden Gnomes – Folklore and Mythology

Gnomes are an interesting specimen of European folklore with origins that are generally Germanic in nature. Traditionally, a gnome is characterized by its tiny size, inquisitive nature, and tendency to dwell underground while enjoying a carefree lifestyle. Gnomes are often seen as mischievous or even evil by some, with many wives’ tales about “gnomes coming to get you” having been employed at various times to scare children into obedience.

It is often common, however, to see gnomes portrayed in a cheerful and benevolent light. It largely depends on the country or city you happen to be in, as folklore and mythology of this sort is highly variable throughout the bulk of Europe. The gnome often resembles a gnarled old man living deep underground that guards buried treasure. Such features as pointed, conical hats are also common.

Gnomes feature in the legends of many of central, northern and eastern European lands by other names: a “Kaukis” is a Prussian gnome, whereas a “Tomten” is a gnome in Sweden. “Barbegazi” are gnome-like creatures with big feet in the traditions of France and Switzerland. In Iceland, gnomes, known as “Vaettir”, are so respected that roads are re-routed around areas said to be inhabited by them.

Garden Gnomes – Fantasy Literature

The concept of gnomes is very popular in modern fantasy literature. They are usually depicted as short, stout beings (approximately three to four feet in height) that live underground in large tightly-knit families. They are characterized by large noses and elaborate beards and moustaches, and are best known as inventors. It is often the case that gnomish inventions have a tendency to backfire, and as such the race is generally used for comic relief.

Garden Gnomes – Gardening

Garden gnomes for use as decorative statues in gardens are a relatively new tradition. The first garden gnomes were made in the town of Gräfenroda in Thuringia, Germany in the mid-1800s by an artist named Phillip Griebel. He was known for making many terracotta animals as decorations, although he ended up creating garden gnomes based on local myths as a way for people to enjoy the stories of the gnomes’ willingness to help in the garden at night.

The garden gnomes quickly spread across Germany and into France and England, and wherever gardening was a serious hobby. The production of garden gnomes became widespread with large and small manufacturers both working with their own unique styles to produce statues for use in gardens.

Traditional garden gnomes are made from terracotta clay slurry that is poured into molds. The gnomes are then removed from the mold, allowed to dry and finally fired in a kiln until hard. Once cooled, the gnomes are painted to the level of detail requested by buyers and sent to stores to be sold. More modern gnomes are made from resins and similar materials that are easier and cheaper to work with.

Although there remains a small industry in Germany, the majority of garden gnomes are now produced in Poland or China. The latter is especially the case due to low-cost labor that is popular amongst many manufacturers.

Garden Gnomes – Suggestions for Home Use

Garden gnomes make a cheerful and entertaining addition to any yard. They are usually anywhere from several inches to a foot or two in height, and are amongst the most popular garden statuary in European and North American gardens alike. Their small size makes them perfect for careful positioning under the boughs of bushes and other small plant species.

It can be fun to find creative and sneaky places to hide garden gnomes about your yard, creating scenarios where visitors who are leaning in for a close inspection of flowers will suddenly be greeted by a bearded face and pointed red hat. Garden gnomes are great decorations for homes with children, as every member of the family can enjoy the presence of these cheerful creations.

It is popular for entire families of garden gnomes to be placed together, giving the illusion that they are actually living amongst your plants. You can also mix them together with other statuary, including deer, bears, squirrels and other woodland critters that will, together, give your yard a very woodsy cottage feel.

Garden Gnomes – Concluding Information

You can usually find a great selection of gnomes and other statuary at your local garden center, where you can enjoy picking from amongst the available creations to find one to take up residence back at your house.

When placing them, consider highlighting their presence with overhanging leaves or branches from shrubs. You may wish to avoid placing them next to brightly-colored flowers to prevent unfortunate clashes, as too much color can be a bad thing. Whatever your choice, you will surely enjoy the cheer and unique appearance that gnomes will lend to your garden.

Copyright (c) 2008 – Brant Florist

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