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Lawn and Garden Gnomes

Updated on August 20, 2015
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Scene from "Gnomeo & Juliet"
Scene from "Gnomeo & Juliet"

Gnomeo and Juliet

I thought maybe garden gnomes would make a comeback with the release a few years ago of the movie Gnomeo and Juliet. Maybe they have, maybe they haven't. They're adorable creatures and the movie certainly reinforces that and more. The movie, by the way, is very entertaining - sweet and funny at the same time. It made me want to get at least one gnome for my yard, how about you? Well if that's not the case, then maybe something on a little more serious note will convince you - like the history of the gnome! Well here it is...

A Brief Gnome History

Garden Gnomes date back to the early 1800s in Germany, where they were first crafted by hand from terracotta clay. The gnome figurines were first brought to Great Britain in the 1840s by Sir Charles Isham. One of Isham’s original gnomes, “Lampy”, still guards the garden at the Isham estate in Northampshire. Lampy was insured back in 1997 for 1.6 million dollars (1 million pounds.)

Most of the original gnomes made in Germany followed the “dwarf” concept and they were not like the happy, smiling little men we often see today. This gnome image continued until 1937, when Walt Disney created “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs”, which was based on the Brothers Grimm tale of “Little Snow White” who received shelter from seven dwarf miners who lived deep in the forest. Happy, Sneezy, Bashful, Sneezy, Doc, Grumpy and Dopey became favorites all over and they probably changed the image of the popular gnome forever.

Gnome production was halted for a little while during World War II and when production began again after the war they were most often made of resin and plastic.

The traditional garden gnome is depicted as a small man with a beard who wears a colorful hat.  Folklore states that garden gnomes come to life to tend the gardens when no one is looking.  They are guardians and protectors of their gardens.  This is a good thing for people who don’t have a green thumb, as gnomes are said to ensure the fertility of the land and vitality of the vegetation on it. 

Happy Gnome with Heart
Happy Gnome with Heart

Gnome Liberation Front (it's a real thing!)

Gnomes have adorned lawns of avid gardeners for a very long time, but in recent years many a garden enthusiast have snubbed the poor creatures, touting them as “kitschy.” Many years ago, the Royal Horticultural Society banned them from the elite Chelsea Garden Show. One High Profile Royal Horticultural Society member, however, was able to sneak her gnome in recently.

There are actually organizations that pledge to free gnomes. One such group is called Free the Gnomes. Another, the Gnome Liberation Front, carry out periodic “mass liberations.” Many of the liberators have been arrested for robbery.


There’s actually a practice called “Gnoming”, or the traveling or roaming gnome prank, wherein a gnome is removed from its garden home and taken on a trip. The gnome is photographed in front of various landmarks and the pictures are sent to the gnome owner, whose prized garden has undoubtedly suffered in the absence of the gnome.

Today, gnomes are also used as a symbol of carefree vacationing (thanks to gnoming?)

Travelocity has taken on a traveling gnome as its mascot. Today, gnomes are commonly depicted partaking in a variety of activities outside of just gardening.

If a gnome makes you laugh, it is serving its intended purpose. Many of today’s garden gnome statues are way more fun than most conventional garden statues. Take, for instance, the "Mooning Garden Gnome" to the right!

There's all kinds of gnomes available for your lawn or garden, from motion-activated talking gnomes to tired gnomes and hiking gnomes to support our troops gnomes.

There are also books and movies about gnomes, too.

You name it, there may just be a gnome about it!

If you're not a gnome fan, these are for you!

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