Garden Gnomes

Protectors of the garden

Got a gnome peeking out from behind your rosebush or guarding that clump of phlox by the deck? Ever wondered why garden gnomes are so popular or why people keep trying to steal yours? Like every mythical creature, gnomes aren't to be taken at face value; there's a legend behind them that might make you look at your garden guardian twice the next time you see him winking at you from his spot in your flowerbed.

You may love them or hate them, but garden gnomes represent an important part of garden decor. They're considered guardians and protectors of the garden by some; others feel that they're creatures to be respected and worshipped. Gnomes have a legendary history as old as some pagan religions. If you've got a garden gnome, you've been greatly honored!

Gnomes originated in Germanic fairy tales as subterranean creatures that hoarded treasure. They're depicted in modern legends as chubby, red-cheeked old men with conical hats and benevolent features. Historically, if you needed help with your garden, you would adopt a gnome. Gnomes can be found in many different poses, including:

  • Cuddling with wildlife
  • Pushing wheelbarrows
  • Dancing with the lassies
  • Holding steins of mead
  • Feeding birds
  • Holding various garden tools such as shovels, rakes, axes, etc.

The statues are made of resin, ceramic or brass and can cost anywhere from $20 to $400, depending on the size and quality. Bigger gnomes made of brass will cost you more.

Some people believe that gnomes are creatures that have been turned to stone by sunlight, so they will often kidnap or "liberate" your garden friends to return them to the wild, where they believe the mythical beings will revert back to their animated state. Other people will use gnomes as victims of pranks, and may harm or destroy them. If your gnome is particularly valuable, financially or nostalgically, you may want to protect it by taking it indoors at night and when you're not home. This will ensure that any gnomelawn ornaments are safe from marauders.

Garden gnomes were first made out of clay in nineteenth-century Thuringia, Germany. The first recorded instance of a gnome was at Lamport Hall in England, in 1840. The gnome, named Lampy, was owned by Sir Charles Isham, who apparently brought over 25 terra cotta figures from Germany. Lampy can still be found at Lamport Hall and is insured for one million pounds.

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