- A cover story in the Local Living Section of the Washington Post about garden gnomes? I say why not, if it’s as interesting as this one, teasing us with a description of gnomes as “…comical and sometimes even vulgar.” DO say more! Or should I say “DO show us examples.”
And that’s when this garden blog comes to the rescue, showing you far more than a newspaper will show you – either in print or online.
Gnome History Highlights
The author has thoroughly researched the gnome history books like the 2009 Garden Gnomes: A History. by Twigs Way. But since most of you will be faced with a payroll when clicking on the story I’ll share the juiciest bits:
Gnomes originated in Germany’s Black Forest in the early 19th Century as expensive hand-painted wooden statues three feet tall. They portrayed outdoor people like gardeners, fishermen, and hunters.
Some noted oddballs were critical in the popularization of gnomes, including a “pro-socialist vegetarian teetotaler who believes dwarfs and little folk are real.”
One English gnome-collector dotted his 62-acre estate with them, some of which were uncovered by a later owner of the property – George Harrison! He featured the unearthed gnomes on the cover of his album “All Things Must Pass.”
The forerunner to the Chelsea Show wouldn’t allow them but they finally appeared at the 2014 Chelsea Show, where they “snuck into” the Canada Blooms exhibit with gnomes depicting famous people, like Elton John and the ones shown here. (Source.)
More boosts to gnome popularity came from Disney’s “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” and the wonderful illustrations in Wil Huygen’s “Gnomes,” published in 1976. It sold more than a million copies.
But here’s what you’re all waiting for – the 1980s when “the statues took a bit of an irreverent turn” with gnomes in farting position and even topless female gnomes.
Google provided this example of a farting gnome on a now-dead Walmart link selling “Motion-Sensored-Farting-Noise-Gnome-Hand-Painted-Planter-Gift-Decor-House.” Yeah, what a gift idea!
As for the topless gnomes, the female are adorable, but this MALE is actually naked and he’s much funnier, doncha think?
So here we are with full frontal nudity on GardenRant! Any chance we’ll get censored?
Now you may remember my fascination with AI, including DALL-E for graphics. Here are the results when I prompted the app with “gnome White House” (which it interprets as gnome white house), “gnome hula-hooping,” “Irish gnome” in the upper right (in honor of St. Patrick’s Day) and generic “garden gnome.” I’d say they’re about as good as the iStock photo used in the Washington Post article. And of course iStock doesn’t have photos of gnomes hula-hooping.
(By the way, this project taught me that DALL-E itself has a decency code, which rejected my request for “naked garden gnome.” It also protects famous people from being injected into fake photos, as I learned when trying to make it create Miley Cyrus with a bouquet of flowers for my article about her song “Flowers.”)
On LOCAL Garden Writing
Readers may also remember my complaints about the Post’s gardening coverage since the retirement of gardening columnist Adrian Higgins. There was the mistake-filled story of the White House gardener’s retirement and then the accurate advice from a Denver-based writer for gardening in dry climates – published in the Local Living section for my plenty-wet Maryland county! (See, I’m still mad about it.)
But this gnome article is written by a writer in the DC area – yay! – whose previous articles I’ve also enjoyed. But wait – he describes himself as a travel, food and parenting writer, with no mention of gardening. So I guess a good lifestyle writer can handle the occasional assignment about plants, and definitely the topic of gnomes, naked or otherwise. Anyway, I just like this guy.
WalMart did have a “zombie gnome” ornament, a few years ago – X’d out eyes, climbing out of the earth. We thought that was funny, altho as we were packing up to move 2,000 miles, we couldn’t justify getting it. That’s about the only one I’ve ever been tempted to add to my garden. I don’t understand deliberately vulgar garden art – there’s enough accidental vulgarity in the world, generally; why add to it?
susan, me wonders if you might have too much time on your hands, but as always, your columns are phe-gnome-enal. perhaps you can do your next one on Smurfs
Yes, count on me to keep readers up to date on important figurine-related news – and Miley Cyrus, too.
Maybe Scott could write a column about the “gnome-enclature” of these creatures
We gnomes need neither boosting nor berating. John Donne put it best. “Gnome man is an island, entire of itself…”
I say with all seriousness: I know it’s spring when my husband and I have our first Gnome Fight. It hasn’t happened yet, and here it is, the official first day of spring. How thoroughly depressing. (I am pro-gnome, he is against.)