|Gnomes, legendary creatures of German folklore, have been a presence in gardens around the world since the 1800s. Their quirky faces and short bodies have more than a fanciful purpose for being masters of gardens, however. These small statues not only add a mystical sense of delight, but also, they welcome and amuse those who choose to spend some peaceful time perusing many a garden.
Philipp Griebel, a potter, in Graeferoda, Thuringia, Germany in the 1800s, most likely made the first garden gnome. The exact date remains questionable. The German word for garden gnome is gartenzwerg. The original gnome was made from clay.
In 1874, Philipp Griebel began a ceramic factory. He began to produce gnomes in large quantities. Around the same time, August Heissner also began to produce gnomes in a variety of appearances. In fact, the early years of production for garden gnomes brought many different gnome characters into existence. Descendants of Philipp Griebel still operate a gnome workshop as well as the gnome museum today.
However, the gnome moved out of Germany and made an appearance in an English garden sometime during the early 1840s. Sir Charles Isham is responsible for bringing garden gnomes to England.
Purpose of Garden Gnomes
The gnome derives his existence from that of the legendary gnome, a small, old man who lived under the ground for the purpose of guarding treasure. He was said to have exceptional abilities including exceptional vision and insight into all living things. Moreover, these legendary gnomes of a past mythical race held honesty, hard work, and integrity in high regard. These qualities have all been associated with garden gnomes.
Garden gnomes are thought to be purveyors of goodwill, hope, and good luck. As such, they are placed in gardens to ensure that those individuals living in the home will experience only good things. Garden gnomes care for the garden and guide its inhabitants and owners. The entire garden and the accompanying yard fall under the beneficial influence of its garden gnome. The garden becomes the gnome’s sole responsibility. He watches over the entire garden, the home accompanying it, and the inhabitants.
The Presence of Garden Gnomes
The appearance of gnomes in a garden can bring about an atmosphere of playfulness and whimsy. Their slightly misshapen faces and bodies with their quizzical expressions and colorful clothing lend a theatrical air to the garden. In fact, their innocent appearance and pointy red hats almost instantly create a sense of good will and peace upon anyone who gazes upon them.
In most gardens, the gnome is given a place of honor in the front of the garden where he will be clearly visible to all who enter the garden’s confines or simply walk past it. From this vantage point, the gnome can observe each visitor or passerby.
These guardians of the garden have the reputation of having magical powers. Their magical powers give them the ability to see into the inner being of each living creature, human and otherwise. In fact, their keen sense of observation allows them to see into the character and spirit of each.
The Nature of Garden Gnomes
Typically, garden gnomes are available in three different types of material- resin, pottery, and concrete. Today’s garden gnomes are modeled after the original gnomes that were crafted in the 1800s. The fine details that are included on each gnome’s face create the sense of personality that each and every gnome is credited with having.
Garden gnomes crafted from resin are usually less expensive, less expressive, and less unique. This type of gnome is often mass produced and sold by the thousands in garden and discount stores.
Pottery gnomes are expensive, but well worth the cost. This type of gnome provides a creature with a finely detailed facial expression and hint of personality. Plus, pottery gnomes are very durable, which is why they are often passed down from one generation to the next. Today, many of the pottery gnomes on the market are crafted in the United States.
In fact, pottery gnomes tend to be hand painted, which adds to their unique look. An all-weather glaze provides a finish that aids the gnomes in standing up against all kinds of weather. This fact allows the pottery gnome to maintain the safety of the garden year round.
Concrete gnomes are more expensive to purchase. However, if they are cared for properly, they will last indefinitely. Concrete gnomes need to be coated on an annual basis to protect them form the elements of wind and water. This type of gnome usually does not have as expressive or finely detailed face as pottery gnomes.
The Personalities of Garden Gnomes
Not only have gnomes found their way into our gardens, but also, they have found their way into our hearts. Their quirky little faces, their protective ways, and their fun personalities lead us to quickly encircle them with our love. Once a garden gnome finds a home in a garden, it is usually for life.
Typically, gnomes fall into one of the following categories when it comes to personalities- playful, lazy, hardworking, or fun loving. However, variations do exist as far as personality and appearance.
Playful gnomes are usually still a bit immature in their ways and young. They tend to be seen with a game of checkers in the making, dangling from vines or ropes, or playing with some toy or other. The playful gnome is perhaps the most adorable to look at due to his wide, happy smile.
Fun loving gnomes tend to have a gift for making people laugh with their silliness. They have a knack for peeking out from their hiding spots as though they are looking for trouble. Moreover, this type of gnome usually has his own secret sprinkling system in the oddest place or a pair of ripped pants that make him look as though he just fell out of a tree.
Lazy gnomes do very little else besides protect the garden from evil and unwanted visitors. Lazy gnomes are easy to recognize because they are usually sitting about or sleeping in a patch of wild mushrooms.
Hardworking gnomes not only protect the garden, but they also attempt to keep it in good shape. They are often seen with a wheelbarrow full of seeds, plants, or tools. Additionally, they patrol the gardens with flashlights, hold up welcome signs, or pull wagons along filled with garden necessities.
Enemies of the Garden Gnome
Although the garden gnome does not have many enemies, he does have one enemy that is a force to be reckoned with. The Gnome Liberation Front is an organization that originated in France. Its sole mission in life is to liberate or free all of the garden gnomes in the world. This organization is thought to be responsible for the disappearance of many gnomes.