The following is the SAGC column from the July 15th issue of The Carillon.
Something To Grow On
By Steinbach and Area Garden Club
We all know someone who loves to ‘enhance’ their garden with items other than plants and shrubs – from knick knackery and gnomes to elegant arbours and statuesque fountains. The world of garden art has quite the history, and some of the most well-known and widely used garden décor are garden gnomes.
History of the Garden Gnome
Gnomes have been around forever it seems, and are best known as decorative lawn and garden ornaments. Gnomes first appeared in European folklore as benevolent creatures who rewarded the good behavior of farmers, merchants, and housewives with assistance in fields, shops, and gardens at night. Ceramic gnomes were first manufactured in rural Germany by Phillip Griebel in the middle of the nineteenth century. Griebel’s gnomes were specifically created for decoration, but some people were superstitious and believed that the tiny statuaries also warded off thieves from stealing stores of grain and vegetables.
Although Griebel initially created deer and fairy statuaries, once he began creating lawn gnomes he had a difficult time keeping production in line with the demands of his German customers. The Griebel family continued to manufacture lawn gnomes up to the start of World War II when production was halted temporarily. But even the ravages of war did not deter people from seeking out the merry lawn decorations, and production started up again in the mid 1940s. Although the Communist police were concerned at one point that gnomes could serve as conduits for smugglers, the gnomes eventually became one of the leading exports of Eastern Germany. The fall of communism opened up the market to cheap imitations from other countries such as the Czech Republic and Poland, but Griebel’s descendents continue to manufacture high quality lawn gnomes in the family’s original factory in Central Germany. The factory is now home to a museum and Internet sales have allowed the company to export their gnomes internationally.
Today, gnomes continue to be popular and can be found in their many forms at many gardening centers and online stores. They can now be found in nearly any shape or size and have also been modernized to reflect the changing interests of their owners. This includes gnomes on miniature motorcycles, on roller skates, and even in sports jerseys! (Andrew Nadler, The History of Garden Gnomes).
No Gnomes for You?
We realize that gnomes are not a favourite for everyone. But there are many other art forms to explore. Looking / gazing balls for birds to preen themselves or on which sun reflects can add some intrigue or variance in a garden. For bird watchers, what could be a nicer functional piece of art than an elegant or avant-garde birdbath nestled into one of your shrub beds? Perhaps a Romanesque fountain or statue is in your taste or we have even seen a yard where old chandeliers were hung from trees for a romantic and fantastical appeal. For hands-on people, a willow obelisk to show off some climbing vines may be the thing (don’t worry, the vines will hide any mistakes quickly!). There are so many different tastes and talents out there, and your imagination literally is the limit.
For more info on these or other artistic projects, check out www.bhg.com, www.the-artistic-garden.com, or simply search online. The Jake Epp Public Library also has a wealth of books and magazines on gardening and do-it-yourself projects.
For more information about the SAGC, to ask a gardening question or suggest an idea for a future column, visit www.sagardenclub.com or call Anne Peters at 326-2396.