History Of Garden Gnomes

How Exactly Did Garden Gnomes Make Their Way Into American Pop-Culture?

In recent history, garden gnomes and lawn gnomes have experienced a resurgence in the United States and Western Europe. Between 1997 and 2000, the Front de Liberation des Nains de Jardins (FLNJ) or the Garden Gnome Liberation Front rose to notoriety for its tongue-in-cheek “rescues” of imprisoned garden gnomes(1). The 2001 movie “Amelie” played off of the FLNJ’s gnome emancipation when it featured a flight attendant who took a home bound man’s Zwergli Gnomes - Click for more info
favorite gnome around the world on her travels and snapped pictures of it in front of places such as the Taj Mahal and St. Basil’s Cathedral in order to encourage him to leave his house. Travelocity travel services adopted a gnome that was similar to the lawn gnome used in “Amelie” and its charming visage is now highly recognizable thanks to memorable commercials.

Garden Gnomes and Lawn Gnomes are not limited to the worlds of activism, film, and marketing: throughout history they have made multiple appearances in popular literature. Garden gnomes are a pesky garden problem in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series and chasing them out of the garden is considered to be a task akin to taking out the garbage.
Author R.L. Stine wrote a popular children’s book in 1995 titled Revenge of the Lawn Gnomes that depicted lawn gnomes as malicious pranksters prone to fits of violence towards children. Gnomes are without a doubt a strong presence in 21st century popular culture, but where did we get lawn gnomes from in the first place and how did it become common practice to put a small ceramic creature in a garden? Phillip Griebel’s descendents continue to create garden gnomes in Germany and are the last producers of German garden gnomes.

Gnomes are considered to be a part of the collective memory of Eastern and Western European folk tale. The Brothers Grimm featured gnomes in 'The Gnome', a series of short stories detailing the lives of gnomes. These stories depict gnomes in benevolent and malevolent lights, but the first one is perhaps the most important: in it clothing is given to two helpful gnomes and they decide to serve a cobbler and his wife for the rest of their days. Other stories exist of gnomes’ helpfulness in the oral tradition and relate the willingness of gnomes to assist in gardens. Phillip Griebel began manufacturing terra cotta gnomes specifically for gardens in the town of Graefenroda , Germany in the early nineteen century. They quickly became staples of gardens across the continent and were brought to England by Sir Charles Isham in 1847(2). One of the surviving gnomes from Isham’s garden is on display at the Isham estate and is insured for one million pounds sterling(3).

Lawn gnomes were once produced all over Europe, but after the fall of the Iron Curtain most production moved to Poland and the Czech Republic. Phillip Griebel’s descendents continue to create garden gnomes in Germany and are the last producers of German garden gnomes. Although garden gnomes have a rich history, they (and their owners) have occasionally faced persecution from the general public: The Royal Horticulture Society of Britain banned the use of “brightly coloured creatures” including lawn gnomes in 2006 in advance of the Chelsea Flower Show, which is the floral equivalent of the Kentucky Derby(4).

In spite of their sometimes tumultuous and controversial history, gnomes continue to be a popular and tasteful addition to any garden or lawn. International Gnome Day was instituted in 2002 and is celebrated June 21 by a dozen countries. GnomeFrenzy is proud to be a part of a nearly two hundred year tradition of decorating gardens with enchanting “helpers.”

Take this time and keep the tradition of Garden Gnomes going strong. Just choose from any of our styles of Gnomes:

1 “Garden Gnome Liberation Front strikes Paris show” 13 April 2000 http://archives.cnn.com/2000/STYLE/arts/04/12/france.gnomes.reut/
2 http://www.suite101.com/article.cfm/fruit_garden/109030
3 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gnome
4 “Gnomes spark row over fairies at Chelsea” The Independent http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/this-britain/gnomes-spark-row-over-fairies-at-chelsea-479614.html
5 For more information about handmade German Zwergli Gnomes, please visit www.ZwergliGnomes.com