I have been undecided over this little chap. Is he a gnome or is he a dwarf or what? I found him standing in a front garden in South London – slouching against some bricks. I was quite tempted to snaffle him and take him home as he looked as though he’d appreciate a little bit of love, despite his grin.
From ancient times, small statuettes were placed in Roman gardens depicting Priapus, the phallic god of fertility and this transmuted through the ages to come to mean ‘the little folk’ or dwarves who were believed to help around the land and in the mines. Such ornaments were said to be the bringers of good luck. It’s unknown as to who brought the first of such dwarves over to England from the manufacturing heartland of Germany – but when they arrived they were promptly renamed as gnomes. By the beginning of the 20th Century they were hugely popular, gracing many a stately home’s rockery or lawn.
After the First World War popularity of the garden gnome took a nose dive, perhaps because of it’s German background, and it wasn’t until Walt Disney’s ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs’ that gnomes once again won over the British gardening public, and saw the rise of the concrete gnome we all know and love/hate.
This year, Chelsea Flower Show lifted it’s 100 year ban on gnomes when 100 gnomes, painted by the likes of Elton John and Judi Dench, were auctioned at the show for charity. I believe the ban is firmly back in place next year. It might be fun to smuggle one in…